Earlier Monday, China's drug regulator granted conditional approval for an HIV drug to treat COVID-19. This is the first oral antiviral made in China, Azvudine, developed by Genuine Biotech.
Genuine Biotech is headquartered in Pingdingshan, and applied for regulatory approval earlier this month. According to a company announcement, 40 percent of COVID-19 patients who were given Azvudine for a week showed improvement, compared to 11% of placebo patients. The third and late-stage clinical trials show that the oral medication is safe, can improve clinical conditions of patients and inhibit the virus within about five days.
So how does Azvudine work?
Most antivirals target two SARS-CoV-2 proteins that are essential for replication, a polymerase and a protease. Azvudine tricks the virus’s polymerase into incorporating the drug into its RNA, which stops the virus from replicating.
Another Chinese-made oral antiviral, VV116, is in the final stages of development, and another dozen are in various stages of development.
The developers of VV116, Shanghai Junshi Biosciences, plan to seek regulatory approval soon. VV116 is essentially a pill version of the intravenous drug remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences in Foster City, California, and the first drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treating COVID-19.