11 July 2024

Efficacy tests on the Favipiravir anti-viral drug in the treatment of COVID-19 patients conducted in Thailand cannot be compared with the tests undertaken in the Americas, because of the different methodology used in the tests, according to Dr. Somsak Akksilp, director-general of Thailand’s Medical Services Department.

Dr. Somsak’s statement was in response to a recent claim, referring to efficacy tests conducted in the US, Mexico and Brazil, that Favipiravir is not effective in treating COVID-19.

He said that the efficacy tests in the Americas were on 1,187 samples, 70% which were from obese people and 15% from the elderly.

Almost all of them were given Favipiravir three days after they developed symptoms and the dosage used was not adjusted in line with the patients’ weight. A third of them hadreceived COVID-19 vaccines or had been infected before, said Dr Somsak, adding that the assessment of the efficacy tests were based on telephone interviews with the patients about their condition, without proper review by medical personnel.

In the case of Thailand, however, he said that tests were conducted on 93 COVID-19 patients in three hospitals, with every one of them being under 60 and without underlying conditions. 25% of them were obese and half were administered with Favipiravir on the first day that they developed symptoms. None of them were vaccinated or had been infected before.

Dr. Somsak said that the tests show that half of them had recovered faster, compared with a controlled group. Recovery was within two days of receiving the anti-viral medicine,compared to 14 days among the control group.

The tests on both groups show, however, that Favipiravir did not help reduce virus load, nor did it help the virus to disappear faster, said Dr. Somsak, adding that it was found that the drug is safe, although the level of uric acid in the blood increased.

He noted that the tests in the Americas show that delayed administration of Favipiravir in high risk patients, who have serious symptoms or who are overweight without adjusting the dosage given in line with weight, may not be effective. Assessment by asking the patients about how they feel may not provide the accurate information either, he added.