Three Indian firms get nod for Covid anti-viral drugs

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on June 21, 2020

Covifor, Hetero’s brand of remdesivir, will be priced between ₹5,000 and ₹6,000 for a 100mg vial

Three Indian companies have got off the blocks for Covid-19 anti-viral drugs, remdesivir and favipiravir.

Hetero and Cipla received the Indian regulator’s approval for remdesivir, an injectable drug. Glenmark received the green signal for oral anti-viral drug, favipiravir. Both approvals were for restricted emergency use after consent is taken from the patient.

“Hetero has already got requests for compassionate use. In the coming week we are ready to supply and Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Delhi (with a high number of Covid cases) would be priority,” Dr B Vamsi Krishna, Managing Director of the Hetero Group, told BusinessLine.

Covid patients, who are severe or moderate-tending-to-severe, would be given the drug, he said, adding that it was seen to reduce hospital stay by about four days. “It reduces the virus growth, and allows the clinician to focus on other conditions of the patient such as fever or pneumonia,” he added. The drug would be made available at Covid hospitals.

Covifor, Hetero’s brand of remdesivir, will be priced between ₹5,000 and ₹6,000 for a 100mg vial, he said, and a patient will need at least six such vials as part of the treatment. Explaining the pricing, Krishna said that when seen against reduced hospital stay, the drug is “self-paying”.

Besides, as more companies roll out their versions of the drug, the price situation could change. By July-end, Krishna expects India to be self-sufficient on remdesivir to be able to export. The drug is to be made in Hyderabad, he said, adding “its API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) was the toughest to make, but everything was done locally”.

Cipla, too, has received the Indian regulatory approval, a Health Ministry official confirmed, though no information was available from the company.

Remdesivir is the investigational drug from US company Gilead Sciences, which had recently signed voluntary licences with a clutch of Indian and Pakistani pharmaceutical companies, allowing them to make and sell the drug in select countries.

Glenmark’s anti-virals

Meanwhile, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals is the first to bring out its version of favipiravir in India. Sold as FabiFlu, it is priced at ₹3,500 for 34 tablets (₹103 per tablet). The drug will be used in mild and moderate Covid patients, and is part of the therapeutic management guidelines in Russia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, said Sujesh Vasudevan, Glenmark’s President (India Formulations, Middle East and Africa).

This week, Glenmark will initiate Covid-linked clinical trials combining two approved and safe anti-virals — favipiravir and umifenovir (used in influenza), added Dr Monica Tandon, Glenmark Vice-President and Head (Clinical Development, Global Specialty/ Branded Portfolio).

The company is also looking to reduce the “pill burden” of favipiravir, she said. Its dosage is nine pills of 200 mg to be taken two times on the first day, followed by four pills per dosage, twice a day, between two and 14 days.

Published on June 21, 2020

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