Fabi Flu Glenmark: 5 Points About the Drug Approved for COVID-19 Treatment in India
Glenmark has claimed that Favipiravir can be administered in the recommended doses to patients who have underlying diseases or comorbidities like diabetes and heart disease.
A medical worker collects a sample from a woman at a school turned into a centre to conduct tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), amidst its spread in New Delhi on Monday. (Reuters)
As of 19 June 2020, Favipiravir has become the first repurposed drug approved for the oral treatment of COVID-19 infection in India. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has given Mumbai-based Glenmark Pharmaceuticals permission to manufacture and market Favipiravir in tablet form to treat patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 infection, under the name of FabiFlu.
Glenmark conducted clinical trials of Favipiravir in May, where the drug was administered to 150 COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate illness. The drug was used to treat the patients for 14 days, but the study lasted for a month and concluded that Favipiravir showed clinical improvements by about 88% in the patients. The study itself is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Favipiravir was the frontrunner among the 25 repurposed drugs the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was trying out for COVID-19 treatment. Here are answers to a few questions you may have about this drug:
What was Favipiravir originally used for?
Favipiravir is an antiviral drug licensed in Japan in 2014 for the treatment of influenza. The recommended dosage for the flu is 1600 mg on the first day, followed by 600 mg from the second to the fifth day. For COVID-19, however, Glenmark’s study recommends the dose of 1800mg twice on the first day, followed by 800mg doses twice daily for 14 days.
How does Favipiravir work?
Because it’s a broad-spectrum antiviral medication, Favipiravir has shown significant effects against other viruses that cause diseases like dengue fever, Zika, Ebola, gastroenteritis and diarrhea. All viruses are either DNA-based or RNA-based, and Favipiravir is effective against RNA viruses. SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA-based virus, which is why it was estimated that Favipiravir might prove to be effective against it. Favipiravir targets RNA polymerase, the enzyme that helps the multiplication of the viral RNA in the body. This drug mutates the RNA of the virus, which in turn reduces the viable viral load and improves the condition of the lungs.
Does Favipiravir weaken the immune system like other antivirals?
While there is no evidence yet that Favipiravir weakens the immune system in any way - more light can be shed on this once the Glenmark study is published - antiviral drugs, in general, do have an immunosuppressive reaction. This is primarily the reason why Favipiravir is a prescription drug which is provided to patients along with other immunomodulatory drugs to maintain immune function in the patient.
Can patients with comorbid conditions use Favipiravir?
Glenmark has claimed that Favipiravir can be administered in the recommended doses to patients who have underlying diseases or comorbidities like diabetes and heart disease. The company has, however, made it clear that Favipiravir will not be given to patients with severe kidney and liver diseases.
Is Favipiravir safe for use by pregnant women?
Pregnant women, even ones with mild to moderate COVID-19 infection, cannot be given Favipiravir. This is because the drug can cause severe abnormalities in the foetus. Glenmark has also clarified that Favipiravir cannot be administered to pregnant or lactating women.
For more information, see FabiFlu: Benefits, side effects and dose.
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