Mumbai-based drug major Cipla could be India’s first company to manufacture new drugs for the treatment of Novel Coronavirus, a report in Times Of India (TOI) stated. The company is credited with several innovations especially in respiratory and flu therapy.
In a conversation with TOI Cipla promoter Yusuf Hamied said, “We consider it a nationalistic duty to put all our resources to benefit the country.”
The company is doubling production of these therapies. Cipla already distributes Swiss company Roche’s anti-inflammatory drug Actemra in India, which can be used in patients with severe lung problems, Yusuf Hamied added.
Cipla has an upper hand in respiratory, anti-flu and HIV drugs as all three are believed to be effective in the present situation, though there is not enough data at present to establish them as treatments.
The leading durg manufacturing company which has been making healthcare affordable by launching copies of AIDS, cancer and other life-saving drugs, was also one of the first companies to launch generic treatment for H1N1 influenza in recent years.
TOI quoted Hamied as saying, “We are looking into how to produce raw materials (active pharmaceutical ingredients) with the help of government laboratories for these drugs.”
It will take six months to launch after procurement of raw materials, he added.
The new Coronavirus only affects the lungs and the company has a range of asthma drugs including Foracort, Seroflo, Duolin and Aerocort and certain nebuliser respules to treat asthma which can be used as supplements, said Hamied.
“We have a wide range in our portfolio — we do not know what medicine/combination will work. It is the doctor’s discretion,” Hamied said.
Drugs which have shown promise, and are now part of a global trial, include antiviral drug remedesivir, a combination of two HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir; lopinavir and ritonavir plus interferon beta; and antimalarial drug chloroquine.
Hamied informed, “Cipla already manufactures Lopimune tablets, a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, and is keenly watching the developments. Earlier, the Drug Controller General had approved the ‘restricted use’ of a combination of anti-HIV drugs for treating those affected by Covid-19, after ICMR sought an emergency approval for the use of ‘lopinavir’ and ‘ritonavir’ combinations.”
On the availability of these critical drugs Yusuf Hamied said, “We have enough in India right now. But if it becomes a cluster or community transmission, then it could be a problem. We are worried about the uncertainty (of the virus and its spread).”
The US has just approved the use of anti-malarial drug chloroquine as a treatment, while France is studying a combination of hydroxychloroquine, a popular anti-malaria drug, and antibiotic azithromycin. Both are plenty in India, Hamied said.
The company is working closely with the government including Indian Council of Medical Research director general Balram Bhargava, Drugs Controller General V G Somani, and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology scientists, he added.
Cipla is both fast-tracking development of these drugs with government laboratories, and repurposing its wide portfolio of respiratory, asthma, anti-virals and HIV drugs to meet challenges arising from COVID-19 in India.