Antiviral medication Favipiravir could halve COVID recovery time

Drug could also help to reduce shedding of infection and slow the spread.

favipiravir tablets next to a positive covid test

Australian researchers will trial an antiviral medication that could clear out COVID-19 more quickly and help people recover from the illness.

Favipiravir is an antiviral medication originally developed to treat people with influenza. It also works by preventing certain viruses from replicating. Earlier this year, it was approved as an experimental treatment for COVID-19 infections.

Favipiravir’s application in relation to COVID-19 is being studied in multiple countries including the United States and Japan, and now in Australia.

Now, researchers from The Alfred and Monash University will start the VIRCO trial – testing the drug on symptomatic people with COVID-19 in the first five days of diagnosis – to see if it can be used as a COVID-19 treatment.

“We think this could work for COVID-19,” said lead researcher and infectious diseases specialist Dr James McMahon.

“There were two smaller trials in China which showed that Favipiravir cleared the virus more quickly and people with less severe infection recovered more quickly.

“These studies were in a small number of people, so it needs to be studied further in a placebo controlled study. This means half the people get the drug and half get a sugar pill or placebo, so it is a rigorous way of working out whether this drug helps people clear the virus and recover more quickly.”

The drug has already been given to thousands of people safely in trials studying other viral infections before COVID-19, he added.

“This is why we think it is an excellent candidate to study not only for people in hospitals but also people in their homes with COVID-19. The study staff will closely monitor people while they are on the trial.”

Successful international trials indicate the drug could halve the recovery time for patients.

It works by stopping the virus and preventing it replicating itself inside human cells.

Through use of the drug, it is estimated patients could get over the virus in four days compared to the average 11 days.

Another trial found the drug shortened fever duration from an average of 4.2 days to 2.5 days.

It was also used as emergency aid to treat Ebola patients in Guinea and the fatality rate among the 73 patients treated with the drug (42.5 per cent) was lower than that in untreated patients (57.8 per cent), according to The Daily Telegraph.

The original trials and experiments were performed on only a small number of people. The VIRCO trial aims to test 190 volunteers in Melbourne.

“If it did have an effect, you would hope it would have an effect in days,” said Dr McMahon.

The drug could also help to reduce the amount of virus infected people are shedding, and slow the spread of infection through the community, said Dr McMahon.

The company that developed the drug – sold under the brand name Avigan – has stockpiled two million doses in defence of a new strain of influenza pandemic.

Do you think it more likely we will find effective treatments instead of a vaccine?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    10th Aug 2020
    May be , we should try Friar'sbalsam?
    Friar's balsam may be good to ALEVIATE and SPEED UP the recovery of Covid-19. It don't prevent to
    catch the Covid-19, nor do it cure the Covid-19, that is the job of your immune system.
    Friar's balsam was invented by Joshua Ward around 1760.
    That is 260 years ago and still on the market.
    Friar's Balsam is an antiseptic and stimulating expectorant
    Phlegm is easier to cough up if it has been thinned, using a mucolytic agent such as carbocysteine. Remedies such as inhaled friar's balsam or Olbas Oil - used in combination with hot steaming water -
    help to bring about short-term relief
    Used as an inhalation, with hot water, for relief from nasal congestion or as an expectorant in colds, coughs, laryngitis, bronchitis and asthma.
    10th Aug 2020
    nobody is forcing anyone to take antivirals, but they have been remarkable at changing HIV from a death sentence to living a normal lifespan. The immune system was not so good at dealing with that virus.
    The Thinker
    10th Aug 2020
    Antiviral drugs are the new antibiotics of the medical world. They are awesome.
    10th Aug 2020
    Can any person explain why HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE is banned in Australia ? It has been a big help against Covid 19 in other countries. Apparently has been around for 60 odd years and used for the treatment of malaria primarily.
    Surely it is worth the effort if it only saves 1 person ? Political football ?
    10th Aug 2020
    Only for the treatment of COVID. Not enough proof of effectiveness nor safety in COVID patients. Some studies have indicated there may be problems and it is ineffective.
    10th Aug 2020
    Suggest you do some google searches regarding; 'why the negative comments about HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE' etc.
    10th Aug 2020
    I think it is being used as a political football in U.S. Also Bigpharma are more interested in a vaccine, not a cheap generic treatment which has prevented COVID-19 from developing into a serious condition and possible death.

    There are so many HCQ positive outcomes overseas in several countries.
    See these 2 international studies -

    Opinion pieces -

    Chloroquine has been around for 65 + years. Hydroxychloroquine is a later better version. 5 million doses are prescribed safely per year for other medical conditions.l

    Hydroxychloroquine is a cheap, generic patent-free drug (no large corporation behind it) which costs less than $ 10 per patient for COVID19.

    The World Health Organization sponsored a study with hydroxychloroquine. It is the Recovery Trial of the University of Oxford- a complete “gold standard” study. Their findings were that HCQ is "not an effective treatment in patients hospitalised with COVID-19" and "does not reduce the risk of death among hospitalised patients with this new disease". - see

    This trial used very high dosage, way above what has ever previously been used or what doctors in the field are successfully using. In the WHO trial it was used on hospitalised patients whereas these doctors prescribe it for early stage when symptoms first appear, - before you need to get to a hospital (not very effective in late stage), and it was not combined with zinc or an antiviral like azithromycin which are part of the successful protocol being used in outpatient treatment One could be excused for thinking the WHO sponsored thydrochoroquine trial was designed to fail as an effective early stage treatment.
    10th Aug 2020
    There is a Federal government petition EN 1745 “Allow the use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to treat covid-19” if you think we should be able to choose this treatment -
    11th Aug 2020
    I read an article about it recently, when they did the trials they used too higher doses, there is many doctors who have used it successfully with low doses and in the early part of having symptoms of covid. These doctors have been speaking up for ages about it. It is a cheap drug and big pharma does not want anyone to use it and get well before their vaccines are out or another expensive medication.
    11th Aug 2020
    Interested to know where you did your medical degree and your research training Clarabelle as you seem so much more informed than the experts worldwide conducting properly constituted trials of many drugs, yet have no proof that any work against COVID-19, or that the trade off side effects are worth the risk.
    10th Aug 2020
    Yes I believe finding effective treatments is more likely than a vaccine in the short term. Of course antivirals do not give any sort of immunity so a vaccine remains the gold standard but unlikely in the short term . Distribution of a safe and effective vaccine remains a huge problem even if one is developed.
    10th Aug 2020
    What I like is that the minute we have a problem that involves science, there are immediately 4000 experts in the press that spout off stuff as though they knew most of it all already, and 50,000 readers who become experts in their own minds on reading the papers.
    11th Aug 2020
    'Seek and you shall find'?
    Ted Wards
    12th Aug 2020
    Can I ask our resident experts, what other viral illness has a 96% recovery rate at present. I'd be interested to find out.
    12th Aug 2020
    I would have to look it up but unfortunately that is not the question with COVID. The question is how many people suffer long term problems after having COVID and whether the body actually develops long term antibodies. So the questions are how weakened are our bodies likely to be and how often can we contract this virus. We have no idea of the "recovery" rate because that only shows who did not die - not if they are recovered.

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