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Business Exclusive: BDR Pharma ready with Favipiravir 800 mg pills; will ease Covid-19 patients’ pill burden

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BDR Pharmaceuticals will soon be launching an 800 mg version of the Favipiravir tablet, which is expected to significantly reduce the pill burden on Covid-19 patients. The 800 mg tablet will reduce the number of tablets to 30 for a 14-day course.In India, Favipiravir is used in the treatment of mild to moderate cases of Covid-19.Currently, Favipiravir tablets are available in 200 mg and 400 mg versions. A patient has to pop a total of 122 tablets in a 14-day course for 200 mg, while the 400 mg halves the number of pills to 61. “We have been inspected by the DCGI and our samples have been approved in the lab. We are expecting the clearance anytime this week,” said Dharmesh Shah, Chairman of BDR Pharmaceuticals.Also Read: Roche’s Tocilizumab cuts likelihood of death in COVID-19 hospitalised patients with associated pneumonia by 44%“The patient has to take a loading dose of 3,600 mg on day one, followed by 1,600 mg on the remaining days, so 800 mg will be a convenient dose,” Shah added.The high pill burden is cited as one of the reasons for drop in patient compliance with the treatment.BDR has launched 200 mg and 400 mg versions on its own, under brand name BDFAVI, and also supplies Sun Pharma, Brinton Pharmaceuticals and Blue Cross Laboratories.Price dropFavipiravir, an antiviral drug that has been used in the treatment of influenza in Japan since 2014, was approved by the Drug Controller General of India for treatment of mild to moderate Covid cases.Over a dozen companies have been marketing favipiravir, with prices dropping as low as Rs 33 per tablet of 200 mg dosage, a fall of close to 70 percent in less than two months since Glenmark launched its Favipiravir tablets.India has reported close to 5.56 million Covid cases and 88,935 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Covid-19 tracker. There are close to a million active cases, of which at least 20 percent would need oxygen. Cases have been rising by about 90,000 on a daily basis.Demand for Remdesivir outstrips supplyMeanwhile, demand for Remdesivir, a broad-spectrum injectible antiviral medication developed by Gilead Sciences, continues to surge. The drug is yet to reach smaller towns, where the black market is thriving as cases rise. Shortages have been reported even in large cities, including Mumbai.Shah said demand for Remdesivir is still outstripping supply, as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in India and globally.He says the capacity of Remdesivir is around 5 lakh vials, with Cipla-BDR and Hetero the dominant producers.BDR, which exclusively supplies the Remdesivir active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) to Cipla, scaled up to 250,000 vials capacity in September from just 70,000-80,000 in July.Shah said BDR’s partnership with Cipla is progressing well, even as Cipla works to develop and produce Remdesivir in-house at its Goa facility to augment capacity.“We are increasing quantity month on month. Right now the requirement is much more than supply. There is a need for more supplies. In any case if Cipla is doing it at Goa, it will have to cater to the rest of world — 127 countries. We need additional capacity,” Shah said.Not a cheap drugRemdesivir is prescribed for hospitalised patients who are on oxygen. The drug has to be taken for five days, with 200 mg IV (intravenous) on day 1 followed by 100 mg IV daily for four days.The drug was approved as an experimental therapy for restricted emergency use on patients.A vial of the medication from Cipla costs Rs 4,000 while Hetero’s product is priced highest, at Rs 5,400 per vial.Zydus Cadila has launched the cheapest Remdesivir injection, at Rs 2,800 per 100 mg vial. The other companies to have launched Remdesivir include Mylan, Jubilant Life Sciences, and Dr Reddy’s.Shah says that while Zydus had the advantage of coming in late, other companies are offering the drug to the government at a price similar to that quoted by Zydus.

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