Chandigarh-based chemist and pharmacists are facing a huge demand for the anti-viral drug Favipiravir, launched under the brand name ‘fabi-flu’ by Glenmark pharmaceuticals. The drug has been approved for limited emergency use for Covid patients with mild to moderate symptoms by the ICMR.
However, many customers are visiting these stores hoping to purchase it over the counter as they believe the drug is a ‘cure’ for Covid-19.
“There are some people who have read about all these new drugs and know that they are not a curative medicine. But there are many others who think it is the cure because of how the drugs are marketed or talked about in the media, so they have been calling me and visiting my store everyday asking for a strip for fabi-flu,” says a chemist store owner from Sector 16, adding that he is frustrated by how many times he had to explain to his customer that fabi-flu cannot be purchased over the counter, and is neither a prophylactic or a ‘cure’ for Covid-19.
The Indian Express spoke to 20 chemist store owners across the city, most of whom insisted that customers need a prescription and have to sign a form consenting to consume the medicine before they are allowed to purchase the drug from chemists.
“That is why I haven’t even stored it yet, and will only source the drug once there is a legitimate form of demand. As of now I am just getting uninformed phone calls,” says a chemist from a prominent store in Sector 15. However, two chemists claimed that they could source the medicine over the counter for a customer if need be.
Anti-viral drugs not a cure
“The launch of this medicine is a big step for the Indian pharmaceutical industry and that is commendable, but people should know that this is in no way a cure, nor is any so called “anti-viral” drug a cure for viral disease,” says Professor Bhupinder Singh Bhoop from the University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS).
The drug ‘Favipiravir’ has until now been used to treat influenza in Japan. However, trials for the drug on Covid-19 showed promise, hence the drug is now branded for Covid-19 treatment as well.
“All ‘anti-viral’ drugs are chemicals which help stop or retard the process of multiplication of the virus in our bodies.
No drug can truly kill the virus in our body, so anti-viral drugs at best can guarantee quicker recovery in patients. Each drug is created for a different viral strain, which we just have to adapt and try on Covid-19 because it will take years for a drug specific for Covid-19 to be produced. Even when it is produced, it won’t be a curative drug,” explains Professor Bhoop.
The drug ‘Favipiravir’ recently became off-patent, which allowed for other companies to produce generic versions, as Glennmark has done in India.
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