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Coronavirus pandemic | Cipla to expand portfolio for COVID-19 drugs over next two months, says CFO

Swiss company Regeneron has signed with Cipla for exclusive distribution of its imported antibody cocktail in India.

May 17, 2021 / 02:31 PM IST
Cipla CFO Kedar Upadhye said the company has obtained voluntary licences for Merck and Eli Lilly’s baricitinib and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s antibody cocktail, which it is expected to launch “over the next two months” (Representative Image)

Cipla CFO Kedar Upadhye said the company has obtained voluntary licences for Merck and Eli Lilly’s baricitinib and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s antibody cocktail, which it is expected to launch “over the next two months” (Representative Image)

Pharmaceutical major Cipla is looking to expand its portfolio of COVID-19 drugs over the next two months, according to company CFO Kedar Upadhye.

Speaking to Mint, Upadhye said the company has obtained voluntary licences for Merck and Eli Lilly’s baricitinib and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s antibody cocktail. The company plans to launch them “over the next two months”.

He added that the antibody cocktail’s timeline is “immediate”, adding: “Hopefully, we would be able to launch the cocktail in the next few days, subject to import.”

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Swiss company Regeneron has signed with Cipla for exclusive distribution of the imported drug in India.

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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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The Regeneron cocktail comes after partner Roche received emergency authorisation in early May. It is a “monoclonal antibody cocktail of casirivimab and imdevimab used to treat those with mild-to-moderate infection at high risk of hospitalisation”.

For baricitinib, Upadhye noted that it will take some time because the drug is “an approved product” and subject to the innovator (Eli Lilly) getting clearance from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). He added that Cipla itself will also have to conduct some studies.

The Indian pharma giant is among five domestic companies that have signed a voluntary licensing pact with Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) for the production of molnupiravir. Notably, molnupiravir is an investigational oral antiviral agent that is currently under phase 3 trial by MSD and Ridgeback Biotherapeutic for use in mild-to-moderate COVID-19 cases

The third phase trials will have to be completed first in the US. After grant of emergency use authorisation (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration, MSD can approach DCGI for authorisation in India.

Final data on the drug is expected by October with USFDA approval likely in the second half of 2021.

Cipla at present produces the largest range of COVID-19 drugs in India including remdesivir, favipiravir, azithromycin and tocilizumab.

Follow our full COVID-19 coverage here
Moneycontrol News
first published: May 17, 2021 02:29 pm

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