Antivirals are no ‘game-changers’: Medical experts on Covid-19 drugs

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on June 23, 2020

Medical experts across the globe maintain that there have been some positive developments towards securing Covid-19 vaccines, especially after the launch of generic versions of Remdesivir and Favipiravir. However, these should not be touted as “game-changers” in the fight against the novel coronavirus, a Hindustan Times report said.

The antiviral drug Favipiravir, developed by Glenmark Pharmaceuticals under the brand name FabiFlu, is for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 cases, while Cipla and Hetero have received approvals from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to launch Remdesivir under the brand names Cipremi and Covifor, respectively. Cipla on Sunday announced the launch of Cipremi.

However, according to Dr Sanjay Rai, Professor at the Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS Delhi, there is no effective and sure-shot treatment of the deadly contagion to date.

“Till date we don’t have evidence that a particular drug is effective, so we cannot call any drug a game-changer till then. It will only be clear in the future how effective they are. Whether they can play a supportive role in Covid-19 treatment is also not yet known,” he told PTI.

Dr Vikas Maurya, Director, Department of Pulmonology and Sleep Disorders, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, said drugs like Remdesivir and Favipiravir were “no game-changers” as they were used for other diseases and have now been found useful in some way in treating Covid-19 patients. “It is not as if all those taking these drugs will recover,” he told PTI.

“It has been found that they help reduce viral load but are not game-changers, Maurya said. “But yes, it is a positive development as it is better to have something in hand than nothing. There is also a psychological impact that something is being given, which could have some benefit,” said Dr Rommel Tickoo, Associate Director, Internal Medicine, Max Healthcare.

The studies on these drugs are very limited, so they cannot be called “game changers”, but their launch is a positive development as it is better to have something than nothing, he said.

“On both the drugs we have limited data, whatever evidence we have is mostly anecdotal. There is no specific treatment that we have and we cannot wait for all the trials to be over as many lives will be lost. That is why emergency restricted use has been approved,” Tickoo told PTI.

“It is difficult for us to categorically state the efficacy of the drugs, they do have the potential, but we need more data,” he said.

Renowned city-based lung surgeon Dr Arvind Kumar, also does not believe in the effectiveness of these antiviral drugs.

“If at all ‘game-changer’ can be used, it is for dexamethasone, which has shown a significant reduction in mortality and is available cheaply,” said Kumar, who works at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

In May, domestic pharma firms Hetero, Cipla, and Jubilant Life Sciences had entered into non-exclusive licensing agreements with drug major Gilead Sciences Inc for the manufacture and distribution of Remdesivir, Hindustan Times reported.

FabiFlu is the first oral Favipiravir-approved medication in India for the treatment of Covid-19, Glenmark said in a statement.

Published on June 23, 2020

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