Russia moved to defend its Avifavir anti-viral drug on Friday following an inconclusive clinical trial in Japan that tested it against COVID-19 and as the country's total death toll from the infection surpassed 11,000.
Russia is gradually lifting coronavirus-related restrictions, in place since March and set to reduce its gross domestic product by up to 6% this year, despite recording thousands of new cases daily.
After re-opening sport facilities and restaurants, Moscow now aims to open doors to cinemas from Aug 1 as it continues trials of a number of anti-viral drugs against COVID-19 at home.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) is leading the race with its anti-viral drug Avifavir, sending a first batch of 100,000 treatment courses to 35 Russian regions and Belarus last month, with plans to produce more in July.
Avifavir, known generically as favipiravir, was first developed in the late 1990s by a Japanese company later bought by Fujifilm. There is no vaccine for COVID-19 for now.
A Fujita Health University researcher Yohei Doi, after completing trials on 89 patients across Japan, said on Friday that Tokyo's version of favipiravir, Avigan, yielded inconclusive results as a treatment of COVID-19.
Although patients given the drug early in the trial showed more improvement than those who got delayed doses, the results did not reach statistical significance, he said.
Russia's ChemRar, Avifavir's manufacturer and an RDIF partner, said on Friday that trials completed in Japan were 'preliminary' and did not allow a final conclusion to be drawn about how effective favipiravir and favipiravir-based drugs are.
Andrey Ivashenko, ChemRar's board chairman, said in a statement that Avifavir has the most impact when used on early and mid-coronavirus stages but has less impact if taken later.
Over 700 people took part in ChemRar-led trials, he said, and the company was in talks with Fujifilm to share results of Russia-based trials as well as on possible collaboration on the drug.
On Friday, Russia's coronavirus crisis response centre reported 6,635 new cases, down from a mid-May peak of nearly 12,000 and bringing its nationwide tally of infections to 713,936, the world's fourth highest caseload.
The death toll now stands at 11,017 and 489,068 people have recovered, it said.