AstraZeneca seeks approval in Japan for antibody COVID drug

British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca says it has applied for approval in Japan of its antibody drug for COVID-19 treatment and prevention.

Officials of the firm say the drug reduces the risks of severe COVID-19 and death, and helps prevent onset of the disease.

The officials say the firm applied with the health ministry on Thursday. They are seeking special emergency approval for use of the drug, called AZD7442.

They say the cocktail of two long-acting antibodies is to be administered by injection.

A clinical trial of the drug through March 2021 covered about 5,200 people who were not infected with the coronavirus.

The firm says the drug reduced the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by 77 percent, and that its effects continued for six months.

In another clinical trial, the drug was given to more than 900 patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms through July 2021.

The firm says administering the drug within seven days of onset reduced the risks of severe symptoms and death by 50 percent.

AstraZeneca says the drug was found effective for the Omicron variant as well.

It also says the cocktail can be used as a pre-exposure prevention step for those with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients.

The drug has been authorized for pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19 in the US and European countries.

AstraZeneca says it will closely cooperate with Japanese regulation authorities so it can soon deliver the drug to those who need it.