Pharmaceutical major, Cipla Ltd has doubled production of remdesivir to meet unprecedented demand as India tries to battle out the second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Cipla, one of India’s oldest and largest drug manufacturers, has a deal to make and supply the US-based Gilead’s remdesivir in more than 100 countries; several other Indian drug producers also have similar agreements.
Having overtaken Brazil, India is now the world’s second-worst coronavirus-hit country, after the United States, having administered about 107 million vaccine doses among a population of 1.4 billion. On Sunday, India banned the export of anti-viral drug remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients to tackle the crippling shortages of the medication in many parts.
In an official statement, Cipla said it has scaled up production of remdesivir by 2x from the last wave of the pandemic. “Given the unprecedented demand for the drug, we have now further ramped up our capacities through our network. The company is working with authorities to restrict remdesivir supply just to hospitals and places with a high burden of severe COVID-19 cases,” it said.
Two months ago, Cipla had projected falling demand for remdesivir in India as coronavirus infections were on a steady decline. However, the World Health Organization in November issued a conditional recommendation against the use of remdesivir in hospitalized patients, saying there was no evidence that the drug improved survival and other outcomes. But countries, including India, have continued its use.
A pharma industry source told ToI that was low production. He said manufacturers can’t take the risk of being saddled with huge inventories as remdesivir has a short shelf-life of six to eight months. Another source pointed out that the surge in the second wave has been so rapid that it has resulted in a mismatch in the production curve and the demand curve.
At present, seven Indian companies – Cipla, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Hetero Labs, Jubilant Life Sciences, Biocon’s Syngene, Zydus Cadila Healthcare and Mylan (Indian unit) – are producing Injection Remdesivir under a voluntary licensing agreement with the American pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences that holds the patent for the product.