Japan offers flu drug in fight against Ebola

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - AUGUST 25, 2014

Japan said on Monday it is ready to provide a Japanese-developed anti-influenza drug as potential treatment to fight the rapidly expanding Ebola outbreak. It says Ebola and influenza viruses are the same type and theoretically similar effects can be expected on Ebola.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Tokyo can offer the tablet favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, any time at the request of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Suga said Japan is watching for the WHO's decision on further details over the use of untested drugs, the AFP news agency reported. In case of an emergency, Japan may respond to individual requests before any further decision by the WHO, he said.

The WHO said earlier this month that it is ethical to use untested drugs on Ebola patients given the magnitude of the outbreak.

Developed by Toyama Chemical, a Fujifilm subsidiary, to treat novel and re-emerging influenza viruses, the drug was approved by the Japanese health ministry in March. Fujifilm is in talks with the US Food and Drug Administration on clinical testing of the drug in treating Ebola, company spokesman Takao Aoki said.

The company has favipiravir stock for more than 20,000 patients, Aoki said.

He said Ebola and influenza viruses are the same type and theoretically similar effects can be expected on Ebola.

Several drugs are being developed for Ebola treatment, but they are still in early stages and there is no proven treatment or vaccine for the highly fatal disease.

Ebola has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa in the latest outbreak.