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DDC says it will stand by favipiravir

BANGKOK: The Department of Disease Control (DDC) insisted on Saturday (Mar 19) the antiviral medication favipiravir has shown high efficacy in treating patients infected with COVID-19, adding the drug is available for bulk purchase and costs only B800 per treatment.

By Bangkok Post

Sunday 20 March 2022, 10:44AM

Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the DDC. Photo: Bangkok Post

Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the DDC. Photo: Bangkok Post


Favipiravir’s effectiveness has been assessed by Siriraj Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine during the two-year COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand, said Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the DDC. Its efficacy should not be devalued, he said, reports the Bangkok Post.

The drug has been administered to more than a million people and proved effective in 79% of cases, with patients recovering from an infection in four days. In a control group of patients who did not take the drug, only 32.3% attained a similar recovery, he said.

He was responding to critics of favipiravir including activist Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution. He on Friday petitioned the Administrative Court against Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and some other executives at the ministry over their decision to continue using favipiravir as the main treatment for COVID-19 patients.

The ministry is set to buy 254 million favipiravir pills in August-September and 300mn pills during October-December, at a total cost of B6 billion despite its maker having been ordered not to tout its efficacy against Omicron.

Dr Manus Potaporn, deputy director-general of Department of Medical Services, said part of the systematic study and review process regarding favipiravir has been developing formal guidelines for its proper use.

Other medications for COVID-19 treatment, namely remdesivir, molnupiravir and paxlovid, have been studied and reviewed in the same manner, Dr Manus said.

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He said that each of these COVID-19 treatments has its own advantages and disadvantages.

However, he noted, “Molnupiravir and paxlovid are both new drugs which… cost up to B10,000 per treatment course."

As for favipiravir, in addition to its treatment efficacy the drug’s safety also has been verified in many countries around the world, Dr Manus said.

In Thailand, 52% of all COVID-19-infected patients displaying some symptoms are not in fact given any antiviral drugs, he said.

They instead receive treatments for relieving symptoms, while 26% of patients are given favipiravir and another 24% the herbal medication green chiretta (known in Thai as fa talai chon).

Another benefit of favipiravir, said Dr Opas of the DDC, is absence of strong side effects and its suitability for pregnant patients.

He said plans are to begin administering favipiravir to pregnant women from the second quarter of this year.

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