Covid medicine: Dr Reddy’s Laboratories begins work on Gilead drug clone

Mumbai: Dr Reddy’s Laboratories is in the early stages of creating a generic copy of remdesivir, the experimental drug developed by Gilead that’s said to have improved the condition of critically ill Covid-19 patients in a multi-country trial.

While scientists across the world are racing to develop drugs and vaccines against the coronavirus, remdesivir is among the few that have shown promise.

Indian drugmaker Cipla said a few weeks ago that it was also working on the drug along with the state-run Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

“It’s early days for Dr Reddy’s, but they have started work in developing this drug,” said a person with knowledge of the matter. “There are also issues of patent.” Gilead has a patent for the drug in India.

“Unfortunately, we would not like to comment at this time,” a Dr Reddy’s spokesperson said in an email.


The antiviral was originally meant to treat ebola but wasn’t successful. Gilead said earlier this week that a compassionate drug use programme sponsored by the company found that out of 53 patients with severe Covid-19 infections, clinical improvement was observed in 36.

Compassionate use refers to the employment of an unapproved drug to treat the seriously ill when nothing else is available.

Groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) say several countries are looking to issue compulsory licences for likely Covid-19 treatments. They include Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Germany and Israel, it says. Compulsory licensing (CL) allows generic drugmakers to manufacture patented drugs under emergency circumstances.

Test Production

“We are in a pandemic and this makes it a case for CL,” said Leena Menghaney, a lawyer for MSF.

Five generic companies in China and one Taiwanese research body, the National Health Institute, have announced that they already have the capacity to produce remdesivir, MSF said in a briefing document. Some have conducted test production of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and the finished product, it said.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said that it will consider using the drug on Indian patients if any domestic companies can manufacture it.

“Initial data based on the observational study shows that the drug is effective,” ICMR head scientist Raman Gangakhedkar said on Monday. “We will wait for the results from the WHO solidarity trial and also see if some other companies can work on this to proceed further.”

The Gilead CEO said a few weeks back that although the drug has not received approval anywhere in the world, it was ramping up production and if trials succeed it will offer 1 million doses for compassionate use.

Source Article

Lois C. Ferrara

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