The BMC will order 15,000 vials of Remdesivir on Friday for its civic-run hospitals to treat moderately to severely ill Covid-19 patients. It will buy the drug from Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical company Hetero Healthcare at a cost of Rs 4,144 per vial.
Until weeks ago, Bangladeshi companies, with no approval from Indian regulators, were offering the same vial at Rs 12,000. A BMC official said they received the lowest quotation from Hetero Healthcare from among all the licensed manufacturers they had approached for the drug.
Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug first developed by Gilead Sciences for Ebola treatment in 2014. It remains an investigational drug for Covid-19 treatment with initial studies showing contradictory findings.
While few studies have found no clinical change in Covid-19 patients with this drug, a US-based study conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has found patients on the drug recovering faster.
In Mumbai, the private sector has pushed for this drug claiming that it has shown that it has properties to save the lives of Covid-19 patients. Even the state’s Covid task force has recommended its use. Several patients have sourced the drug on their own before Indian regulators approved manufacturers for production.
Hetero Healthcare, which is selling the drug under the brand name Covifor, is one of the five companies that has signed a licensed agreement with Gilead Sciences to manufacture and distribute Remdesivir in India and Pakistan. Other suppliers are Cipla, Ferozsons Laboratories, Jubilant Lifesciences and Mylan.
Hetero Healthcare said it received approval from the Drug Controller General of India on June 21. So far, the company has distributed 20,000 vials across the country to meet emergency requirements. While the market price for the drug is is Rs 5,400, BMC is getting a discounted rate for the bulk order.
Tamil Nadu had also placed an order for 42,500 vials for Remdesivir in advance with Hetero Healthcare. The company plans to supply a lakh vials by next week across India.
Dr Hemant Deshmukh, Dean of KEM hospital, said Remdesivir works best if used in initial days of hospitalisation on patients who suffer from comorbidities and are at risk of turning critical. While BMC authorises its senior doctors to approve Remdesivir, Favipiravir or Tocilizumab, resident doctors in civic-run hospitals have been analysing which patient should be administered the drug.
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