Roche’s antibody cocktail for Covid rolls out in India

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on May 24, 2021

Price to a patient, including tax, is ₹59,750

Doctors treating Covid-19 patients will now also have the antibody cocktail – Casirivimab and Imdevimab – for treatment. The first batch of the injectable from Swiss drugmaker Roche has been imported to India from the US, and the second batch is expected by mid-June. Cipla will market the product in India.

Global attention

The antibody cocktail received much global attention last year after former US President Trump was given the drugwhen he had contracted Covid.

A total of one lakh packs are slated for India, but each pack can treat two patients, said the company. The price to a patient is ₹59,750, inclusive of taxes, said the company, with the two-dose pack costing ₹119,500.

With drugmakers facing intense pressure on supplies, given the global demand on a limited supply of products, Roche Pharma (India) Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, V Simpson Emmanuel, said the idea was to get the product in for treatment as soon as possible, as it would be difficult to match the entire demand, given the scale of the pandemic and size of the population.

Price will always be a factor, but the product was deferentially priced for India, he told Business Line, adding that it was substantially less that its price in the US or European Union. Discussions are on to reduce the tax component on the price, the benefit of which could be passed on to the consumer, he said. Bruno Jolain, Medical Director, Roche Pharma (India), explained that a singe dose was to be given to a high-risk patient with mild to moderate Covid-19, to prevent them from getting worse and hospitalised. It should be given in an out-patient set-up, he stressed, where the patient can be given the drug and can go home after being observed by the doctor, just as the case is with a vaccine.

High-risk patients

It has been shown to help high-risk patients before their condition worsens, reducing the risk of hospitalisation and fatality by 70 per cent and shortening the duration of symptoms by four days, the company said. The risk factors include age (above 65 years), chronic liver or kidney diseases, diabetes and obesity, he said, outlining a few.

Pointing out that there were no major safety concerns, he said the product has an emergency use authorisation in India, and is seen to have a neutralising effect against all known variants in the laboratory set-up. It’s effectiveness in the real world settings will also be studied, he said. Surge in demand

Another Covid-19 product from Roche, Tocilizumab, is also marketed in the country by Cipla. The product though is facing a severe supply crunch. The CEO explained that there was an unprecedented demand for the product globally and locally, and the company has entered into alliances internationally to increase supplies. This may not, however, be a solution for the immediate needs, he agreed, adding that India was a priority for the company and plans to address the requirements of the local market were being addressed.

Mechanism of action

Casirivimab and Imdevimab are human immunoglobulin monoclonal antibodies produced by recombinant DNA technology in the lab. Monoclonal antibodies are proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses. This product is specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells.

Published on May 24, 2021

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