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Japan's Health Ministry Gives Fast-Track Approval for Remdesivir

FILE - A lab technician inspects filled vials of investigational coronavirus disease treatment drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences facility in La Verne, California, March 11, 2020.

Japan has fast-tracked the approval of the anti-viral drug remdesivir to be used to treat COVID-19 patients in that country.

Speaking to reporters Friday in Tokyo, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed the rare fast-track, four-day approval of remdesivir by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. He said the drug’s manufacturer - Gilead Sciences - has told them the supply will be limited for a while, so the most severe patients will be prioritized.

The cabinet secretary said Japan is working with Gilead to secure larger quantities of the drug so medical authorities can get it to all those who need it.

Japan’s move follows approval last week by U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of remdesivir, which appeared to help some coronavirus patients recover faster in clinical trials.

A statement from Gilead said the swift Japanese approval was based in part on clinical data from those trials, conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Japan and the U.S are the only countries so far to approve use of the drug for treating COVID.

The top U.S. infectious disease expert, the National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, said last week the drug is not a cure-all but certainly shows promise as a treatment.

Japan is still under a coronavirus state of emergency, which was extended this week until the end of May, though there have been no hard lockdowns.

The United States has more than 1.2 million reported cases of infections, with deaths exceeding 75,000, while Japan has about 15,500 reported cases and 580 deaths.