Swiss drugmaker Roche has responded to the short-supply of its drug Tocilizumab used to treat Covid-19 patients. “We are responding to this situation with supplies over this and the coming weeks to meet the immediate emergency demand,” the company said, of the increased demand following the surge in Covid-19 cases in India. However, it added, “we are mindful that the current unprecedented demand may far exceed the supplies we can provide at this moment”. Roche sells the drug in India through Cipla.

“We are working urgently to increase manufacturing capacity and supply by ramping up our own production network, as well as actively collaborating with external partners to maximise production of Actemra (brandname of Tocilizumab) wherever possible, with the goal of increasing its availability. This should enable us to meet future demand in a fluid and hard to predict environment,” said Roche.

Meanwhile a letter from the Health Ministry and Department of Pharmaceuticals to States and Union Territories, said that the “limited stock” imported by the company needed to be used “judiciously”. An interim allocation of the drug was being made to the States, who, in turn, would distribute to the Government and private hospitals, they said.

Further Roche pointed out that given the increasing number of infections in India, minimising hospitalisations and easing pressure on healthcare systems was particularly important. This is where neutralising antibody cocktails may play a role in the fight against Covid-19, in treatment of high-risk patients before their condition worsens, it said.

Roche Pharma was also working with local health authorities to accelerate an emergency use authorisation (EUA) for its investigational antibody cocktail Casirivimab and Imdevimab in India (based on the data that have been filed for the EUA in the US and the CHMP scientific opinion in the EU). An emergency use authorisation in India would enable the import of globally manufactured product batches to India as soon as possible, it explained.