Avigan, the miracle drug against the new coronavirus? Stop your enthusiasm

In 90% of cases the flu drug, used in Japan, can eradicate the new coronavirus, if caught in time. This is what a video that went viral on Facebook reports. But AIFA reiterates: “there is little scientific evidence of its real effectiveness”

(photo: TF-Images / Getty Images)

It's called favipiravir , trade name Avigan , and was the absolute protagonist of enthusiasm, doubts and controversy of this third weekend of isolation. It is a flu drug , which became famous after the diffusion of a video on Facebook by an Italian pharmacist, in the which tells how in Japan the new one is being treated coronavirus with the administration of this medicine, which would have the ability to stop the development of Covid - 19 , if taken in time . And while Luca Zaia , president of the Veneto Region announced that he is ready to start the experimentation of favipiravir / Avigan also in Italy, the Italian Medicines Agency (Aifa) has shown doubts about it , stating that there is little scientific evidence on its effectiveness and reporting that its technical-scientific commission will meet in day to evaluate in more depth the available evidence for this drug .

The Avigan is a antiviral authorized in Japan since March 2014 for the treatment of forms of flu caused by new or re-emerging flu viruses and the its use is limited to cases where the other antiviral are ineffective. According to what the pharmacist reports in his video, the drug, if administered in time and therefore at the first symptoms of the coronavirus would be able to stop the development of the Covid - 19 in 90% of cases . This data could make us think of a miraculous medicine, and therefore of the availability of a very powerful weapon capable of finally treating patients with Covid - 19 . But for the favipiravir there is not enough evidence to prove its real effectiveness .

As specified in a note recently released by AIFA, in fact, the drug is not authorized either in Europe or in the United States and to date they do not exist clinical studies published on its efficacy and safety in the treatment of new coronavirus . So far, only preliminary data, not yet reviewed by experts, of a small non-randomized study conducted in patients with Covid - 19 not serious, with no more than 7 days of onset. This research compared the Avigan with the anti-viral lopinavir / ritonavir , also unauthorized for the treatment of Covid disease - 19, in addition, in both cases, to interferon alfa-1b by aersol route. “Although the available data seem to suggest a potential favipiravir activity, in particular as regards the rate of disappearance of the virus from the blood and on some radiological aspects, data on the real efficacy in clinical use and on the evolution of the disease are lacking “, says AIFA. “The same authors report as limitations of the study that the relationship between viral titer and clinical prognosis has not been well clarified and that, since it is not a controlled clinical study, there may be inevitable selection bias in patient recruitment. “

After the Facebook video went viral, Zaia announced the intention to start a trial of the drug Avigan Also in Italy. AIFA, for its part, has kept to clarify that the Technical-scientific Commission re-evaluates daily all the evidence that becomes available in order to be able to take any action to ensure the better therapeutic options for Covid - 19 based on solid scientific data. “It is reiterated that Aifa is constantly committed to protecting public health, all the more so in an emergency such as the present one, giving timely and updated information on the scientific evidence and, in urging not to give credit to false information and dangerous allegations, reserves the right to take legal action where appropriate “, reads the note.

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