VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Video claiming Japan’s PM announced COVID-19 ‘medicine’ MISLEADING

A video of a Filipino netizen claiming Japan has already produced “medicine” for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is making the rounds on the Web. It’s misleading. The netizen inaccurately interprets a statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about a drug which is still undergoing clinical trials.

On March 29, a day after Abe held an hour-long press conference about the COVID-19 situation in Japan, YouTube channel LifeMoto posted a nearly three-minute-long clip of a woman claiming to be listening to the prime minister's live television broadcast. "This is breaking news. There is now a drug in Japan. It is called Avigan," the netizen said. "Answered prayer."

The upload on YouTube bore the title, “JAPAN MAY GAMOT NA | HANDA SILANG MAGBIGAY SA IBANG BANSA (Japan now has a cure | They are ready to give it to other countries).”

This is inaccurate. What Abe said was that his country has started “observational studies” on four drugs as treatment for COVID-19 patients. One of them is a drug called Avigan.

The drug, developed in 2014 by Fujifilm Holdings, is approved as an anti-influenza drug and recent reports show it has been “effective in alleviating symptoms” in COVID-19 patients, said the prime minister.

However, it has not yet been formally approved as treatment for COVID-19. Japan is still in the process of holding a series of clinical trials “which is necessary for the drug to be formally approved as a therapeutic agent for the novel coronavirus disease," Abe said.

As of March 31, Fujifilm announced that the drug is in its third phase of clinical trials, which would determine its “safety and efficacy.” The trial will end in June this year, reports say.

In the same briefing, Abe announced that many countries have expressed interest in Avigan, and that Japan will increase production of the drug and cooperate with interested nations to “expand clinical research.” Earlier, the director of China's National Center for Biotechnology Development has recommended the use of the drug in his country's fight against the disease.

The World Health Organization has yet to endorse any drug or vaccine to prevent or treat COVID-19. It maintains that frequent hand washing, social distancing, and proper respiratory hygiene are the most effective ways of protecting oneself from the virus.

The misleading Youtube video has been reuploaded on Facebook (FB) by at least one netizen and three FB pages, namely, Video Trends, LibreSine 101, and Fireman PH. The video already has over 380,000 views on Youtube, as well as an accumulated total of 13,000 views on FB.

Youtube channel LifeMoto was created on June 26, 2019. FB pages Video Trends, LibreSine 101, and Fireman PH were made on Aug. 25, 2014, Nov. 4, 2019, and Feb. 25, 2020, respectively.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)


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About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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