Remdesivir use may continue in India as few options in sight

Remdesivir use may continue in India as few options in sight


New Delhi | Mumbai: Demand for Remdesivir is not expected to reduce in India, even after interim results of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Solidarity Trial have shown the drug is not effective in reducing mortality among Covid-19 patients. The limited options to treat the virus mean Remdesivir will continue to be prescribed, companies and doctors told ET. India’s existing clinical management protocol for Covid-19 advises use of the drug as an investigational therapy for treatment.

In India, it’s used to shorten recovery time in moderately ill patients who are receiving oxygen support, not as a lifesaving drug. “There is merit in the drug. We had a meeting after the Solidarity Trial results and we decided to continue with the drug because within our facility, we have seen it work,” said Tanu Singal, consultant, Kokilaben Hospital in Mumbai.


Doctors say they find Remdesivir helps in reducing viral load in moderate patients. Some doctors, however, question the drug’s effectiveness and price. They have also written to the health ministry, suggesting stopping its use, except in clinical trials. “It is an expensive drug and it may be unscientific to continue using it if WHO suggests otherwise,” said a doctor on condition of anonymity.

“It should only be used in trial to generate further evidence,” said the doctor. In wake of new evidence by WHO, which suggested that Remdesivir appears to have little effect on mortality of hospitalised patients, India plans to review its clinical management protocol. Balram Bhargava, director general, ICMR, told ET on Friday that clinical protocols will be updated after discussions with the National Task force and joint monitoring group.

Pharma companies that have a voluntary licence agreement with US-based Gilead Sciences for Remdesivir told ET it was never intended to reduce mortality.“ The drug was never recommended for bringing down mortality; it was always prescribed to bring down the viral load. Given India’s new case trajectory, we don’t see demand for the drug coming down,” said Dharmesh Shah of BDR Pharma, one of the contract manufacturers for the drug.

Remdesivir sales in India shot up to Rs 101.54 crore in September, from Rs 4.90 crore in July 2020 as the medicine was administered to hospitalised patients receiving oxygen support. Public health experts say that even the change in clinical protocol does not matter as it is not legally binding.

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