A new clinical trial for a potential early treatment of Covid-19 has been launched in Scotland, which researchers hope may help “kill off” the virus in affected patients.
More than 300 coronavirus patients will be invited to join the research study into the effectiveness of the antiviral drug favipiravir.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is the first place in Scotland to have access to the Japanese-manufactured drug, which inhibits viral RNA, helping to stop the virus from replicating.
The health board said it has shown early promise in China and Japan, appearing to alleviate some symptoms.
The joint study between the health board and the University of Glasgow, named Glasgow Early Treatment Arm Favipiravir (Getafix), will assess the drug’s effectiveness in stopping symptoms and reducing recovery time.
Professor Rob Jones, chief investigator of the study and director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit in Glasgow, which is organising the trial, said: “Covid-19 as a disease few of us had even heard of before the spring.
“Although hopes are high ongoing vaccine trials will help prevent infection, this trial aims to improve current treatment for those unlucky enough to contract it.
“With the Getafix trial, we will be rapidly looking at whether this antiviral treatment may help kill off the virus in those affected and prevent more serious complications.”
Focusing on patients with milder symptoms who have a higher risk of these becoming more serious, the treatment must begin within four days of a positive Covid-19 swab test and the antiviral tablets can be taken at home as well as in hospital.
Half of the patients involved will receive the drug twice a day for 10 days alongside standard treatment, with the other half receiving standard treatment for comparison.
Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Renfrewshire, are participating the trial.
Favipiravir is produced by Fujifilm Toyama Chemicals in Japan, where it has been used for its original purpose of combating flu outbreaks since 2014.
Dr Janet Scott, of the Medical Research Council-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, said: “This drug is active against many viruses, it is used already for influenza in Japan.
“We are able to offer it not just to patients in hospital but also for home use.
“Our hope is that it will stop mild symptoms developing into serious ones. We are targeting volunteers who are at higher risk of progressing to serious Covid-19 such as those over 60 years old or with underlying health problems.”
The Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government is funding the trial.
A randomised controlled trial involving the drug began at hospitals in London earlier this year.