Japanese pharmaceutical firm Shionogi & Co. plans to seek state approval for its oral coronavirus drug by the end of this year, in the hope of offering at-home treatment and easing strains on hospitals, company sources said Friday.

The Osaka-based firm expects the antiviral drug, which has been undergoing clinical trials since July, for patients with mild and moderate COVID-19 symptoms will prevent them from worsening.

Supplied electron micrograph shows the new coronavirus. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)(Kyodo)

If approved, it would be the first oral drug for COVID-19 patients with mild cases in Japan. Currently, only an intravenous drug, which needs to be administered at hospitals, is available for patients with light symptoms in the country.

Due to a rapid surge in coronavirus infections in Japan, concerns have been mounting over a shortage of hospital beds and the rising number of patients recuperating at home, who could see their symptoms worsen while not getting proper medical attention.

Shionogi is also considering supplying the oral drug overseas and is discussing the matter with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the United States, the sources said.

The company plans to apply for fast-track approval by the health ministry, which does not require it to complete clinical trials before putting the drug on the market, provided it conducts necessary study afterward.

While moving ahead with the trials, the company hopes to manufacture enough drugs for 1 million to 2 million patients in Japan by the end of this year, the sources said.