Covid-19: Liquid form of remdesivir to smoothen supply, says industry

Of the remdesivir makers in India, Ahmedabad-based Cadila Healthcare (Zydus Cadila) has an in-house lyophilisation capacity.
Shortage of key drug remdesivir, used to treat hospitalised Covid-19 patients, may ease as the liquid form of the medicine may make its way into the market soon. Makers here say that the innovator — Gilead — has come up with a liquid formulation that would be available in the market.

 

The liquid form may be easier and faster to manufacture. Currently, dry powder form of the drug is available and is converted to a solution. It is then injected into a patient. Multiple manufacturers confirmed that the liquid form of the injectable would shorten the manufacturing process and thus help ramp up supplies at a faster clip.

 

Said one manufacturer, “The manufacturing process for remdesivir is quite complex and it takes a minimum of 21 days to make the drug. Before one starts a batch, he has to make arrangements in the supply chain for the active ingredient, among others. So, it’s a minimum one month before a batch is ready for the market.”

 

He added, “Gilead has come up with a liquid form of remdesivir that would basically skip the process of lyophilisation and this can shorten the manufacturing process a bit. Moreover, there is only a limited capacity for lyophilisation in India.”

 

Lyophilisation or crydesication — or freeze drying as it is commonly known as — is a process of low temperature dehydration that involves freezing the product, lowering pressure and then removing ice by sublimation. This is in contrast to dehydration which involves evaporation of water by using heat.

 

Of the remdesivir makers in India, Ahmedabad-based Cadila Healthcare (Zydus Cadila) has an in-house lyophilisation capacity.

 

A company source said that it is already making around 500,000 doses of the drug every month. One patient typically needs six doses. One manufacturer noted that in liquid form remdesivir would require cold chain for distribution.

 

Cipla has already doubled its remdesivir manufacturing capacity. A company spokesperson said, “We have ramped up production by leveraging multiple sites. Supplies are up to date. We have ramped up our supplies by two times per month and this will help us fulfill requirements for areas with increased demand.” Even on tocilizumab or actemra, which Cipla sells under a licensing agreement with Roche, the firm said it is actively collaborating with Roche to ensure sufficient supplies.

 

Hyderabad-based Hetero said it has already delivered 1.2 million doses of remdesivir which took care of 200,000 patients. “We have been continuously manufacturing the product and meeting the required demand. However, with a sudden spurt in the number of cases, we are also augmenting our capacities in order to meet the additional demand,” said a company spokesperson.

 

He added that the supply chain, too, is sorted and there are no order backlogs in the Mumbai region. Hetero sells both dry powder and solution form of remdesivir.

 

Mumbai is probably facing the worst shortage of remdesivir at the moment with the city’s largest dedicated Covid hospital – the Seven Hills Hospital –  now languishing with less than 20 vials of the drug. It currently is treating around 1,100 patients.

FAR FROM OVER

  • September saw a demand-supply mismatch for remdesivir as cases spiked
  • Maharashtra, especially Mumbai hospitals, faced a crisis
  • Companies ramped up production; Cipla doubled supplies
  • Industry says a liquid form of remdesivir is expected soon
  • This would simplify the manufacturing process and make it faster to produce
  • Currently, manufacturing of remdesivir requires freeze-drying
  • Pharma firms typically outsource this process



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