Clinical trials have begun in Japan to test the effectiveness of the anti-flu drug Avigan in treating patients with coronavirus.
The trials followed reports of promising results in China.
The drug shortened the recovery time for China’s coronavirus patients.
A company spokesman said on Wednesday: “The trial will be conducted on 100 patients until the end of June.
“We will collect data, analyse them and file for approval after that,” he added.
The drug will be administered for a maximum of 14 days to coronavirus patients between 20 and 74 years old with mild pneumonia, the spokesman said.
The study excludes pregnant women due to side effects shown in animal testing, he added.
The phase three trial comes after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday that the government “will begin the necessary process to formally approve (Avigan) as a treatment against the new coronavirus.”
“It is expected that Avigan may potentially have an antiviral effect on the new coronavirus” given the way it works on the flu virus, Fujifilm said in a statement announcing the trial.
Researchers and companies around the world are racing to find a cure for the new coronavirus, with the focus on existing medicines such as anti-malaria and anti-HIV drugs.
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat malaria have shown early promise against the COVID-19 illness in early studies in France and China.
Medical researchers around the world are also working to find a vaccine for the virus, which has so far killed more than 42,000 people globally.