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First batch of Cipla's Remdesivir leaves contract manufacturer's site in Daman

Sovereign Pharma has the capacity to scale up production up to 95,000 vials per month

July 08, 2020 / 09:33 PM IST

The first batch of Cipla's Remdesivir has left the manufacturing site of Sovereign Pharma, the Daman-based company that was contracted by the former to formulate Remdesivir into finished dosages.

Remdesivir is used in the treatment of hospitalised novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, patients who are on oxygen.

Sovereign Pharma didn't disclose the number of vials that it has shipped, but the management said its second batch is ready to be shipped on July 8. The company has the capacity to scale up production to 95,000 vials per month.

Cipla is among the six Indian generic pharma manufacturers that have signed non-exclusive voluntary licencing agreements with Gilead Sciences for its patented drug Veklury (Remdesivir). The management, in turn, has signed a contract manufacturing agreement with BDR Pharmaceuticals, who have further transferred the formulation technology for manufacturing and packaging of the generic drug to Sovereign Pharma.

Cipla's Remdesivir, to be sold under brand name Cipremi, is the most anticipated in the market given the severe shortage of the drug, even as people continue to fall prey to COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Moneycontrol reported here about the shortage of Remdesivir and its diversion into the black market where it is sold up to six times of Hetero's price of Rs 5,400.

Cipla has priced the drug at Rs 4,000 per vial, almost 25 percent cheaper than Hetero's Covifor.

Remdesivir has been recommended for five days, 200 mg IV (intravenous) on day one followed by 100 mg IV daily for four days.

Rishad Dadachanji, Director, Sovereign Pharma, said, “Since last month, we have been constantly manufacturing Remdesivir. At our current capacity, we can supply 50,000 to 95,000 pieces of the injectable per month. We know how critical the situation is, especially with the pandemic still spreading across the country. Hence, we are in constant touch with all our clients and ready to cater to any of their requirements with utmost priority.”

Established in 2003 as a Contract Manufacturing Organisation (CMO) to produce high-quality injectables for pharmaceutical companies worldwide, Sovereign Pharma now produces 350 million pieces each year. Going by the number of doses, it sells over 1 billion injections every year.

Remdesivir is known for successfully reducing the virus load in coronavirus patients and has been going through tests for a specific treatment for COVID-19. It has been authorised for emergency use or severe cases in several countries, including India.
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Jul 7, 2020 08:06 pm
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