Indian pharma eyes affordable antiviral medicines to treat Covid-19


A myriad of domestic pharma companies are eyeing antivirals as the focus shifts to treating Covid-19 through oral pills.

The coronavirus is headed to the endemic stage in certain countries, giving these new drugs a potentially huge market, along with the ability to be a game changer for mild to moderate infections. With plans to manufacture the antivirals in the country, they will be available at a fraction of the global price.

Recently, Pfizer announced positive results for its COVID-19 oral antiviral candidate, Paxlovid, which significantly reduces hospitalization and death.

Pfizer looks to deliver a ‘safe and effective’ oral antiviral soon at an affordable price across the globe, a company official told TOI. It plans to submit the data for Emergency Use Authorization in the US soon. says Pfizer’s antiviral is of interest to the company, while Dr Reddy’s remains open to all opportunities. A Sun Pharma spokesperson told the TOI that it is an ‘ongoing endeavour’ to accelerate access to new drugs for Covid-19 treatment in India and that they are ‘open to all options’.

These companies are also tied up with Merck for its antiviral pill, which is expected to be launched at an economical price after the regulatory nod in India.

Industry experts expect it to be around Rs 1,200-1,500 for the five-day course given the intense competition.

At present, generic companies have the freedom to operate and manufacture Covid-19 therapies against the backdrop of the TRIPS waiver sought by the Indian government, Leena Menghaney, global IP advisor of MSF Access Campaign, told TOI.

Many upper middle-income countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, China, Malaysia and Thailand, where established generic production capacity exists, are excluded from the license territory in the Pfizer-MPP agreement.

Licensing deals by pharmaceutical corporations that create uncertainties and segmentation for generic production and supply continue to be part of the problem rather than part of a real solution, experts say.

(With inputs from TOI)

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