Japan's health ministry is to expand the use of a so-called antibody cocktail to prevent COVID-19 symptoms in patients' families and others.
The ministry approved in July the intravenous use of the antibody cocktail, which combines two types of antibodies, for patients with mild to moderate symptoms that could become severe.
Chugai Pharmaceutical, the drug's distributor in Japan, had applied for expanding its use to include prevention.
The company cited the results of overseas clinical trials that show an 81 percent reduction in the risk of symptomatic coronavirus infections among people who were in close contact with infected family members.
On Thursday, an expert panel approved the ministry's policy to use the antibody cocktail for household exposure and asymptomatic cases. But it added that the use in principle must be limited to those who are at risk of developing severe symptoms if infected.
The panel stressed that vaccination is the first line of defense for any infectious disease and limited the cocktail's use to those who may not fully benefit from vaccination.
It also agreed to subcutaneous administration, which takes less time than intravenous infusion.
The ministry is set to give formal approval on Friday, after which the antibody cocktail will be the first drug approved in Japan to prevent COVID-19 symptoms.