The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on Thursday announced that it has identified 25 drugs which can be repurposed to treat COVID-19 patients.
While much-discussed drugs such as remdesivir (developed by Gilead Sciences and used to treat the Ebola virus) and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) already feature on the CSIR list, favipiravir, a broad spectrum inhibitor of viral RNA polymerase, has now emerged as of one of the most promising drugs, according to scientists at the Council.
Drug repositioning is the process of redeveloping a compound for use in a different disease.
Favipiravir was developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Ltd, Japan, a subsidiary of Japan’s Fujifilm Corporation, and is an approved treatment for common influenza. The drug is marketed in Russia, China and Japan.
Dr Geethavani Rayasam, senior principal scientist at CSIR, said, “From preliminary data, it has been seen that favipiravir seems to be effective in treating the COVID-19 virus. The drug is used to treat influenza and is already being used in Russia, China, Italy and Japan to treat the COVID-19 virus. It has shown promising results.”
The Hyderabad-based CSIR-IICT has developed a convenient and cost-effective synthetic process for favipiravir, it was announced.
Cipla will conduct the investigations before launch of this drug against COVID-19 in India. The pharma company approached regulatory authority DCGI for approval for favipiravir to be launched in India, and under ICMR, it will conduct a suitable limited trial before marketing the product as Ciplenza.
“Repurposing drugs is the most effective way to approach the pandemic as developing a new drug will take at least a decade. The existing drugs have already been tried, so we know they are safe. For a new drug, there will have to be a number of trials to ascertain safety which will again take a long time,” Dr Rayasam said.
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