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Russia registers new drug to treat COVID-19

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An employee wearing protective equipment works at the production line of Russia's biotech company BIOCAD, which is developing its own vaccine against the new coronavirus and working on another one in cooperation with the country's virus research center in Siberia, Vektor, in Strelna, on May 20, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

A leading Russian innovative biotech company has registered a new drug for treatment of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which would help alleviate the harshest complications caused by the deadly virus, including lung failure.

Dmitry Morozov, general director of Biocad, the biopharmaceutical company which has received state registration for the drug, expressed hope that the treatment can buy time before a vaccine is found.

“I think we’ll be able to keep Covid-19 complications under control and minimize the harshest problems it causes,” Morozov said on Sunday.

He noted that by reducing the COVID-19 mortality rate, the drug will allow Russia tobuy time” before the vaccine against the coronavirus is made, adding that “the vaccine is surely coming soon”.

The drug Levilimab — which will be marketed under the name ILSIRA and was initially developed to treat rheumatic arthritis — is the second medication to receive state approval through a fast-track mechanism.

The drug will contain the body's immune response and avoid the so-called “cytokine storm” that the new coronavirus causes in severe cases.

Morozov said the drug can be administered not only to patients already in a serious condition, but used as a prophylactic to “prevent the ‘cytokine storm’ from occurring and allowing the patient to avoid intensive care and lung ventilation”.

Ekaterina Trifonova, who heads the infectious ward at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow, stated that Levilimab has proven to be effective and has increased the speed of recovery for patients.

During the first two weeks of trials, out of 45 Covid-19 patients who got the drug, ten were discharged, including a 92-year-old-man, while the rest remained in satisfactory condition, she said.

The new coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19, is believed to have been emerged in the city of Wuhan in December last year.

So far, Russia has reported 467,673 COVID-19 cases and 5,859 deaths, according to a running count by

Last week, Russia registered its first drug approved to treat COVID-19 under the name Avifavir.

The head of Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund — which made the announcement on Monday — said Russian hospitals can begin giving the antiviral drug to patients from June 11, adding that the company behind the drug would manufacture enough to treat around 60,000 people a month.

Avifavir, known generically as favipiravir, was first developed in the late 1990s by a Japanese company later bought by Fujifilm as it moved into healthcare.

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and human trials of several existing antiviral drugs have yet to show efficacy.

A new antiviral drug from Gilead called remdesivir has shown some promise in small efficacy trials against COVID-19 and is being given to patients by some countries under compassionate or emergency use rules.

Clinical trials to test efficacy drugs usually take many months, even when expedited, and involve large numbers of patients randomly assigned who receive either the drug being trialed or a control or placebo.

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