Everything we know about Favilavir, the potential coronavirus treatment

Karen Berger medical writer and reviewer headshot By | March 13, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: As experts learn more about the novel coronavirus, news and information changes. For the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There’s a lot of buzz around the novel coronavirus—what it is, its cold- and flu-like symptoms, and how to prepare for it—but there’s been more speculation about how it’s being treated. Although there is no FDA-approved coronavirus treatment in the U.S., Favilavir is being tested in China as a possible first treatment for COVID-19. There is limited information on this drug, the foreign market uses different terminology. The following is based on what we found in our research.

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What is Favilavir?

Favilavir (favipiravir) is an antiviral drug made in China by Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical. Based on what we can find, it appears that The National Medical Products Administration of China has approved Favilavir for clinical testing in patients for investigational COVID-19 treatment. Favilavir is currently approved for marketing in the treatment of influenza. It is also currently used in Japan for influenza under the brand-name Avigan.

China’s Ministry of Science and Technology reported that Favilavir showed promise in an ongoing clinical trial of 70 patients in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Side effects of Favilavir were not specified but characterized as minimal.

Is Favilavir an antiviral drug?

Yes. Favilavir is an antiviral drug that is approved in China for influenza treatment and is now approved for clinical trials to see if it works for coronavirus treatment. 

How does Favilavir work?

Favilavir’s drug mechanism of action is as an antiviral. It at­tacks RNA virus­es by in­hibit­ing RdRp (RNA-de­pen­dent RNA poly­merase).

Is Favilavir approved by the FDA?

Favilavir is not currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Is Favilavir the same as Fapilavir?

Favilavir was formerly called Fapilavir, but is now called Favilavir. The reason for the name change is not clear. The active ingredient is favipiravir.

When will Favilavir be available to patients?

Currently, Favilavir is available to patients in Japan. It is also available to patients in China who are being treated for influenza and is being used in clinical trials for coronavirus treatment. There is not currently any information on when Favilavir will be approved in China or elsewhere for coronavirus treatment.