The health and science communities around the world are working tirelessly to find vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. This global health problem is now considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic. And as always, Japan is facing the problem head-on.
Japanese scientists and medical experts are studying the possible effects of existing drugs on the treatment of COVID-19. Results are expected to fully reflect on April 2020. Here’s a list of drugs being studied and improved by different medical experts in Japan:
Ciclesonide (marketed as Alvesco)
Ciclesonide is a type of steroid that is generally used to prevent and treat asthma. Believing that it has compounds that can combat COVID-19, a medical team in the Kanagawa Prefectural Ashigarakami Hospital tried it on three coronavirus-affected patients. One of the patients recovered from fever, and her pneumonia infections became mild. Later on, she tested negative and was discharged. The other two patients are also getting better. At press time, more than 10 people are being tested using Ciclesonide.
Originally used to combat the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Remdesivi also shows promising potentials as a possible medicine against COVID-19. As an antiviral drug, it is now being tested on nine virus-affected patients in Japan. However, it is only used in severe cases, such as patients under respirators or heart-lung machines. The patients got better, and none of them died.
Japan’s National Center for Global Health and Medicine is closely working together with clinical trials from the United States and other countries to test the effectiveness and potentials of Remdesivi against COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine, a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD), also has compounds that can somehow treat the
severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine is a drug used to treat Malaria, but Japanese medical experts are now testing it on COVID-19 patients.
A 60-year old male patient affected by COVID-19 and undergoing dialysis was given Hydroxychloroquine in Japan. His 38-degree fever went down after 3 days. His pneumonia infections also improved. If everything goes smoothly, he’ll be discharged.
Another antiviral drug being tested is Favipiravir. It is currently used to treat new types of influenza, so Japanese medical experts think that it might also work on COVID-19. Since Japan, the original developer of the drug, currently has a stock of 2 million Avigan pills, experts are taking advantage of its potential. The Chinese government also released its approval for using the Japanese-developed anti-flu drug to combat COVID-19.
Favipiravir is now being used on patients with mild to moderate symptoms. Hospitals in Japan have yet to release the results of its effectiveness, but there are warnings of its usage to pregnant women and men trying to have children as it can subsequently cause deformities in fetuses. In Beijing, meanwhile, Zhang Xinmin, director of the National Center for Biotechnology Development, announced the usage of the drug in a press conference. The drug has been found effective in clinical trials.
One of the widely-used existing drugs today is Lopinavir-Ritonavir, a combination drug used for treating HIV infections. On March 1, it was given to 54 COVID-19 patients in Japan. The results aren’t out yet, but medical experts are hoping that Lopinavir-Ritonavir can prevent the virus from spreading inside the body. The same warnings from Favipiravir are given to hospitals using Lopinavir-Ritonavir.
Aside from these existing medicines, Japan is also developing vaccines to prevent infection and transmission. This process demands a lot of time and money, so Japan—and the world still have to wait for the results. In the meantime, test kits are continuously being developed to stop the spread of COVID-19 globally.