Favipiravir makers on overdrive

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on June 30, 2020

While some have already started exports,others are about to tie up for local market

There is much behind-the-scenes activity on favipiravir, an antiviral that has been approved for restricted use to treat Covid-19 patients in India and select overseas markets.

While some companies like Optimus Pharma and Lasa Supergenerics have started exporting the product in different forms, others are poised for partnerships with bigger pharmaceutical companies to sell favipiravir locally. And this, even as a handful of companies “queue-up” for regulatory approvals to sell favipiravir in India.

Favipiravir is the generic version of Avigan from Japan’s Toyama Chemical. A little over a week ago, Glenmark received the Drug Controller General of India’s (DCGI) approval to sell its version of favipiravir for restricted use on Covid-19 patients showing mild to moderate symptoms. The drug was priced at ₹3,500 for 34 pills (₹103 per pill).

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings for the Drug Controller General of India’s approval on favipiravir are companies like Optimus Pharma. The company has started exporting favipiravir formulations under its brandname Favicovid, Prashanth Reddy, Director of Optimus, told BusinessLine.

Optimus’ strategy is different for the domestic market, where it will sell to larger companies that will promote the drug under their brandname. “We have tie-ups with some of the giants in the sector,” he said, indicating that they would be able to distribute across the country. The active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and finished form of the drug are made in-house, he said, clarifying there was no dependence on China for the raw material. The company manufactures tablets of 200 mg and 400 mg at its Hyderabad facility and has a capacity of three billion tablets per annum.

Companies tight-lipped

Way back in April, Strides Pharma Science had said it was exporting favipiravir. The company had tied up with an Indian API maker to source its raw material. The market has also been waiting for Cipla to come out with its version of favipiravir. The company is reported to be in a tie-up with BDR Pharma to make the drug. A few major Indian and multinational companies are also tipped to be in the race to make the antiviral; however, these companies did not want to come on record and confirm if they were in the race.

Meanwhile, API-maker Lasa Supergenerics is looking at favipiravir as the first formulation it would sell from its stable. Dr Omkar Herlekar, Lasa’s Chairman, said a pilot project was under way to make the drug. The company had bought the technology from Mumbai-based Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) for the input material and he is confident of being able to sell the finished drug at a price lower than what is in the market, once the approvals come in. Dr Herlekar says the finished medicine would be produced for them by a third-party.

In the meanwhile, the company has begun exporting the “research chemical” to other countries who will buy the chemical and formulate it at their end, he explained.

Published on June 30, 2020

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