Egypt has received samples of Japanese antiviral drug Avigan, which has reportedly been effective in treating coronavirus patients in the Asian country, the Egyptian higher education and scientific research minister said on television on Thursday.
Japan has said it will supply the drug, approved for use in Japan in 2014 against influenza, to 20 countries for free.
It is being tested in China as a treatment for COVID-19, according to Reuters.
Egyptian authorities obtained samples of the drug a month ago from the Japanese manufacturer, Fujifilm, just before international flight suspensions, Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said on Thursday.
He said that Egypt will receive another, larger, batch of Avigan samples in the coming week, in order to conduct clinical and research trials via the Egyptian National Research Centre (NRC).
"We are on our way to the manufacturing stage ... after we contact the Chinese side responsible for producing the pharmaceutical ingredients ... which is approved by the Japanese company … to get an enough of the ingredients in order to manufacture the drug … via a medical company," the minister said.
Abdel-Ghaffar said, however, that it is “premature” to evaluate the drug and its effect on the coronavirus, adding that "the cases must be monitored through the necessary medical radiological scanning and analyses in order to publish verified results."
“Avigan works against the virus and affects the process of virus division ... as opposed to hydroxychloroquine, which is used against malaria, '' Abdel-Ghaffar said, referring to another medication which some, including US President Donald Trump, have touted as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.
"There are different kinds of drugs, but here in Egypt we are working on scientific research using both drugs to monitor their effects," he added.
Medical experts in China and the US have said the drug showed effectiveness in treating COVID-19 patients, according to Japanese news websites.
On Thursday, Fujifilm Holdings announced that it would start clinical tests of Avigan in the Us with coronavirus patients.
The virus has so far infected more than 1.5 million people around the world and killed nearly 100,000.
Egypt has logged 1,699 positive cases so far, of whom 118 have died.