Fujifilm Holdings Corp. will start a clinical study of the antiviral drug Avigan in Kuwait as early as this month in collaboration with an Indian partner company, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

India's Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd. is expected to mainly conduct the clinical study involving up to 1,000 people to assess its effectiveness, according to the sources.

Supplied photo shows tablets of the anti-influenza drug Avigan. (Photo courtesy of Fujifilm)(Kyodo)

Earlier this month, Fujifilm said it had granted exclusive rights to Dr. Reddy's to develop, produce and sell the potential COVID-19 treatment drug overseas, along with Dubai-based Global Response Aid.

Avigan has been seen as a possible treatment for the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., the Japanese firm's subsidiary that developed Avigan, also known as favipiravir, was initially planning to conduct its clinical study targeting 96 people in Japan from late March through the end of June.

But the trial did not proceed in accordance with the plan as the number of infections in Japan was dwindling some weeks during the period.

The number of COVID-19 infections in Kuwait was more than 58,200 as of Saturday, while that of Japan came to some 24,100, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The sources said if effective data were collected during the study in Kuwait, they could be used in Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had hoped to see the homegrown drug approved by the end of May but gave up the target after a Japanese university's interim report, released in mid-May, did not indicate clear efficacy of Avigan in treating the disease.

Earlier this month, Fujita Health University, which has led a team carrying out clinical tests of Avigan, said again its study failed to demonstrate a clear efficacy in treating coronavirus patients at an early stage of the disease.

Related coverage:

Avigan study fails to demonstrate benefit in COVID-19 treatment

Fujifilm ties up with Indian firm on potential COVID-19 drug Avigan

Falling coronavirus cases in Japan cause delay in Avigan clinical tests