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Covid-19: WHO adds Roche-Regeneron’s antibody cocktail to treatment guidelines

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on September 24, 2021

FILE PHOTO   -  REUTERS

Companies urged to bring down prices, up supplies

The treatment arsenal against Covid-19 just got stronger with the inclusion of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail in the updated guidelines from the World Health Organisation. The addition of this two-drug treatment, casirivimab/imdevimab, however, came with a call to companies and governments to address its high price and limited supplies.

The therapy has been recommended by the WHO for patients who are non-severe and at higher risk for hospitalisation and those that are severe or critical with seronegative status (those who have not developed natural antibodies against Covid-19 determined through accurate rapid tests).

“Given the high cost and low availability of the combination therapy, UNITAID is negotiating with Roche Pharmaceutical, which is currently manufacturing the drug for lower prices and equitable distribution across all regions, especially in low- and middle-income countries,” the WHO said, adding that it was in discussions with the company for donations and distribution of the drug through UNICEF.

WHO also called for the sharing of technology to allow more companies to be able to make biosimilar versions of this biological product. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also urged Regeneron to make the antibody combination available at a reasonable price, and “cease pursuance and enforcement of patents, especially in low- and middle-income countries.”

Differential pricing

In India, Roche sells the product through Cipla. The price to a patient is ₹59,750 inclusive of taxes, but a downward revision was expected, an industry insider said, given the government’s recent extension of GST concessions to Covid-19 drugs.

A Roche spokesperson told BusinessLine, “We have made available 1 lakh packs (potentially 2 lakh doses) of Ronapreve™ in India.” Roche said its teams were working round the clock with partner Regeneron to make the drug available “as quickly and widely as possible.”

“We have been able to increase the global supply of Ronapreve to at least 3.5 times the original capacity to enable access for more people. To support rapid and broad access around the globe, we have utilised international differential pricing to address affordability challenges in low and middle income countries,” the spokesperson added.

Published on September 24, 2021

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