Brunei monitoring trial of Japanese COVID-19 drug

Syazwani Hj Rosli

A drug from Japan, known as Avigan (favipiravir), received global attention as it is claimed to be effective in treating COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms. It will be distributed to 38 countries, including four Asean member countries for trial.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said Brunei will monitor the development of the clinical trial first, before obtaining the drug.

“They (Japan) did share information of the drug, but for now, we are not using it yet.”

Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi recently said the drug could help in alleviating the mild symptoms of COVID-19 patients, and raised the prospect of offering Avigan to other countries. Motegi said Japan would work with countries receiving the drug to expand clinical research on the efficacy of treating COVID-19 patients.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the decision has been made to offer the drug at no cost to 20 countries, including Indonesia and the Czech Republic. The government is also coordinating with over 30 other countries.

Japan will also give USD1 million to the United Nations (UN) to buy and deliver the medicine to countries in need.

Speaking on the lifting of all restrictions once a vaccine is found, the minister that a vaccine will take a year or up to 18 months.

“The effectiveness of the vaccine will also need to be tested – whether it can fully protect a person, because the strain of this virus (coronavirus) changes and has acquired mutations. Hence it is important to see the effectiveness once a vaccine is found. Alhamdulillah, our current situation with COVID-19 is under control and facilities are growing with the establishment of the virology laboratory and the National Isolation Centre (NIC) so the plan to lift the restrictions in phases is still being looked into. Insya Allah.”