Japan approves Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir as COVID-19 drug

FILE PHOTO: A lab technician visually inspects a filled vial of investigational coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences facility in La Verne, California, U.S. March 11, 2020. Picture taken March 11, 2020. Gilead Sciences Inc/Handout via REUTERS.

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan has approved Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19, the health ministry said on Thursday, making it the country’s first officially authorized drug for the coronavirus disease.

Japan reached the decision just three days after the U.S. drugmaker filed for fast-track approval for the treatment.

Remdesivir will be give to patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms, a Japanese health ministry official said at a press briefing. With no other approved treatments for COVID-19, interest in the drug is growing around the world.

Remdesivir was granted authorisation last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use for the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Japan, with just over 16,000 infections and under 800 deaths, has recorded has fewer cases than other major industrialized nations.

However, a steady rise in cases has put pressure on medical facilities in some parts of the country, and drug that helps patients recover more quickly could help in freeing up hospital beds.

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe extended a month-long state of emergency until the end of May in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Gilead on Tuesday said it was in discussion with several companies, including generic drugmakers in India and Pakistan to produce remdesivir in large quantities.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; editing by John Stonestreet

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