Japan said Monday it is ready to provide a Japanese-developed anti-influenza drug as a possible treatment for the rapidly expanding Ebola outbreak.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan can offer favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., at any time at the request of the World Health Organization.
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Suga said Japan is watching for a decision by WHO that would provide more details on the use of untested drugs. In case of an emergency, Japan may respond to individual requests before any further decision by WHO, he said.
WHO said earlier this month that it is ethical to use untested drugs on Ebola patients given the magnitude of the outbreak.
The drug, developed by Fujifilm subsidiary Toyama Chemical Co. under the brand name Avigan to treat new and re-emerging influenza viruses, was approved by Japan's health ministry in March. Fujifilm is in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on clinical testing of the drug in treating Ebola, company spokesman Takao Aoki said.
The company has enough stock of favipiravir for more than 20,000 patients, Aoki said.
He said Ebola and influenza viruses are the same type and a similar effect can theoretically be expected for Ebola.
Several drugs are being developed for the treatment of Ebola. They are still in the early stages and there is no proven treatment or vaccine for the often fatal disease.
Favipiravir inhibits viral gene replication within infected cells to prevent propagation, while other anti-viral drugs often are designed to inhibit the release of new viral particles to prevent the spread of infection, the company said.
Recently, two American doctors recovered from Ebola after being treated with the experimental drug ZMapp, though it was unclear whether they were cured by the drug.
ZMapp, developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., had never been tested on humans, although an early version worked in some Ebola-infected monkeys. It is aimed at boosting the immune system's efforts to fight off Ebola.
Ebola has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa in the latest outbreak.