The Pharmacy of the Clinical Centre, University of Pécs received a medicine donation on 23 May, that may be a possible treatment for 100 COVID-infected patients. The Japanese government donated the drug to Hungary, however, it has to undergo clinical tests before it could be given to patients. The tests will be coordinated by the HECRIN Consortium (Hungarian European Clinical Research Infrastructure Network) and the University of Pécs will be leading the research. HECRIN Consortium is a national research network that supports the conduct of clinical trials and it is the Hungarian centre of ECRIN (European Clinical Research Infrastructure Network), a non-profit intergovernmental organisation that supports multinational clinical trials. The chairman of HECRIN, professor Gábor L. Kovács commented as follows.
“Avigan is a drug that contains favipiravir, which was developed in Japan. It has been available for several years there and was originally developed for the treatment of influenza patients. At the beginning of the pandemic, trials have been launched to research whether it may be effective against coronavirus. The results are promising, especially if given during the early stages, favipiravir seems to be able to target and eliminate COVID-19 from the oropharyngeal and nasal swabs.
Since Avigan is not a registered drug neither in Hungary, nor in other European countries, it can only be given to patients after a special licencing procedure. Therefore, the Hungarian government has decided to test the medication in clinical trials. This means, that the HECRIN Consortium, lead by the Szentágothai Research Centre (UP) will receive it for testing. As soon as the ethics licence of the drug has arrived, the four medical universities of the country, the Southern-Budapest Central Hospital and the National Korányi Pulmonology Institute will start the trials. The plan is to involve altogether hundred confirmed COVID patients from the six above-mentioned places, each following a strict reporting schedule.
With medication, we can treat the infected patients; a vaccine will be developed to prevent people from catching the virus. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that a pre-existing vaccine could be used against the novel coronavirus, however, drugs can be repositioned. It is not a coincidence that in connection with COVID almost only those drugs can be used, that have been effective against other viral infections, such as SARS, ebola, etc., because these are related to the coronavirus. If an already existing drug can be effectively used for helping the patients fight the COVID-19 virus, that has the great advantage, that it is much faster than the process of developing a completely new medicine. Years spent on trials, research, licencing procedures can be spared, because the certified drug has already been put through that. The downside of it is, whether we are able to find the effective one or not. Favipiravir, based on American, Chinese and Japanese experiences, seems to be promising.”- said Gábor L. Kovács, chairman of HECRIN.
Written by: Éva Harka, UnivPécs