TOKYO (Reuters) -Fujifilm Holdings Corp said on Wednesday it started a new phase III trial in Japan of its Avigan drug for COVID-19, reviving hopes for a home-grown treatment for the virus.
Domestic approval for the antiviral drug to treat the coronavirus was dealt a setback in December after a health ministry panel said that trial data was inconclusive.
Fujifilm has over the years pivoted from its traditional camera and office solutions businesses to health care. [nT9N2LY00R
The new double-blind, placebo-controlled study is targeting patients aged 50 and older, as well as those at risk of developing serious conditions, Fujifilm said in a release.
Avigan, known generically as favipiravir, has been studied in dozens of trials worldwide, and it has been approved as a COVID-19 treatment in Russia, India and Indonesia. But concerns remain, as the drug has been shown to cause birth defects in animal studies.
Japan has already approved Avigan as an emergency flu medicine, and the government last year called on Fujifilm to triple national stockpiles of the drug.
(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)