The Japanese government is considering offering the anti-influenza drug Avigan for free to countries looking to use it to treat new coronavirus patients, its top government spokesman said Friday.

"Some 30 countries have made requests through diplomatic channels to Japan for the procurement of Avigan," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference. The drug developed by a group firm of Fujifilm Holdings Corp. is seen as effective in treating the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus.

(Avigan)[Courtesy of Doctors Without Borders]

"We intend to expand clinical research on Avigan with countries wishing to cooperate," Suga said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a press conference last Saturday that the government will push the development of drugs and vaccines, including Avigan, to fight the pneumonia-causing coronavirus.

Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co. said Tuesday it has started clinical tests to evaluate the efficacy of the drug, also known as Favipiravir, to COVID-19 patients.

On Thursday, the German health ministry said it will seek to purchase Avigan tablets as a treatment drug for the new coronavirus. Local media said the ministry will buy several million tablets to treat patients with severe symptoms.

A study by researchers at Wuhan University and other institutions in China has shown cases in which Avigan was effective against the coronavirus, especially for the treatment of those with mild symptoms.

Avigan has been manufactured and stocked in Japan as an anti-influenza drug. There is hope it can also help treat other diseases, including Ebola, as well as a tick-borne illness.