Rwanda Bets on Favipiravir to Save Lives as Covid-19 Rages

Rwanda continues to register increasing number of Covid-19 cases and deaths, yet the country has not yet received a vaccine against the disease. The country is now banking on an antiviral drug – Favipiravir – to treat Covid patients in severe condition.

The first batch of the drug is expected in the country on Wednesday, January 20.

As of Monday, January 18, 2021, Rwanda had recorded 11,259 Covid-19 cases and 146 deaths since March, 2020 when the first case of this infectious viral respiratory disease was reported in the country.

Speaking during an interview on Rwanda Television on Monday, Daniel Ngamije, the Minister of Health said that the country had procured the first 18,000 doses of Favipiravir for use in treating Covid-19 patients in critical condition, adding that they will reach the country on Wednesday, January 20, 2021.

He said the drug is in the form of tablets of 200 grammes, indicating it started being commercialised on the global pharmaceutical market about three weeks ago.

“Over 18,000 doses of the drug [Favipiravir], will have reached Kanombe [International Airport] on Wednesday. We are examining all the patients’ conditions so that we are able to administer the drug that we are sure will save the life of each patient,” he said.

The New Times sought more information from the Ministry of Health about the drug but no feedback had been received by the time this story was filed.

More about Favipiravir

Favipiravir, which is sold under the brand name Avigan, is an antiviral medication which works by inhibiting viral replication through termination of viral protein synthesis and arresting its survival.

The drug is developed and manufactured by Fujifilm Holdings Corporation, a Japanese multinational medical equipment and biotechnology company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

Initially, it was approved in Japan for the management of emerging pandemic influenza infections in 2014, and it is indicated for novel influenza strains that cause more severe disease rather than seasonal flu.

The current situation implies that the drug is being repurposed to treat Covid-19.

Some countries that are using the drug

According to information from the US’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, Favipiravir was first used against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic.

Then, as the pandemic spread to Europe, this drug received approval for emergency use in Italy, and currently has been in use in Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Moldova, and Kazakhstan. Approval has also recently been granted in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Thereafter, Turkey, Bangladesh, and most recently Egypt have also commercially launched it. In June 2020, Favipiravir received approval of the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) in India for mild and moderate Covid-19 infections.

According to a study published on December 14, 2020 by the US’s National Center for Biotechnology Information titled “Use in Covid-19: Analysis of Suspected Adverse Drug Events Reported in the WHO Database”, favipiravir appears to be a relatively safe drug.


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