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CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-Russia approves first prescription COVID-19 drug for sale in pharmacies

(Corrects headline from ‘over-the-counter’ to ‘prescription’)

MOSCOW, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Russia has approved R-Pharm’s Coronavir treatment for outpatients with mild to moderate COVID-19 infections and the antiviral drug could be rolled out to pharmacies in the country as soon as next week, the company said on Friday.

Coronavir’s approval as a prescription drug follows the green light for another Russian COVID-19 drug, Avifavir, in May. Both are based on favipiravir, which was developed in Japan and is widely used as the basis for viral treatments.

R-Pharm’s announcement is another sign Russia is pushing hard to take a global lead in the race against the virus. It is already exporting its COVID-19 tests and has clinched several international deals for supplies of its Sputnik-V vaccine.

R-Pharm said it received approval for Coronavir after Phase III clinical trials involving 168 patients with COVID-19.

The drug was first approved for in-hospital use to treat COVID-19 in July, a government register showed.

Coronavir’s trial was comparatively small. The European health regulator on Friday endorsed the use of the steroid dexamethasone in the treatment of COVID-19 patients after a study by UK researchers on several thousand patients.

R-Pharm has started talks with pharmacies about orders, the company’s spokeswoman said, with Coronavir supplies expected to be rolled out in the near future, possibly as soon as next week.

Coronavir is made at R-Pharm’s facility in Yaroslavl, about 300 km (186 miles) northeast of Moscow.

Avifavir has been available in hospitals since June but has yet to be supplied to pharmacies. (Writing by Katya Golubkova and Polina Ivanova Editing by David Clarke and David Goodman)

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