Covid-19: At Rs 2,800 per dose, Zydus launches cheapest remdesivir brand

Remdesivir and other expensive Covid drugs like Roche's tocilizumab (which is marketed here by Cipla) have been selling in the black market
Disrupting the Covid drug market in the country, Cadila Healthcare (Zydus Cadila) on Thursday launched the cheapest remdesivir brand Remdac, priced at Rs2,800 per dose. The drug is 30 per cent cheaper than Cipla’s Cipremi, which was the cheapest remdesivir in the market till now.

This could also be the lowest priced brand of remdesivir globally. 

Gilead's drug is priced at $390 per vial (Rs29,000) for patients on government-sponsored insurance and $520 (Rs38,900) per vial for patients with private insurance. 

Zydus Cadila is the fifth company to have launched its generic version of remdesivir in India after Hetero Labs, Cipla, Mylan, and Jubilant Life Sciences.

The company said it would supply to the government at prices lower than the maximum retail price since there would be no distribution cost. “The pandemic is not a time to make profits,” Pankaj Patel, chairman of Cadila Healthcare, said.  

The total cost of treatment with Remdac would be Rs16,800 for a course of six doses. Zydus plans to supply large quantities of the injectable drug in the market soon, and does not expect any supply constraints as such. The company did not wish to divulge production volumes. 

The production, including for the active pharmaceutical ingredients, would be done in-house. “Not many companies have in-house capability to lyophilize, and they have to outsource the job to a third party. Zydus’ price advantage stems from the fact that they have a large in-house lyophilisation capacity,” said an analyst. 

Freeze drying or lyophilisation is a low temperature dehydration process that involves freezing the product, lowering pressure, and then removing ice by sublimation. It is in contrast to dehydration that evaporates water by using heat. 

Remdesivir and other expensive Covid-19 drugs like Roche's tocilizumab (which is marketed here by Cipla) have been selling in the black market due to shortage in supply. Prices of these drugs were inflated by as much as six times. 

The government has been keeping a close watch on the situation and had asked companies to step up manufacturing. The department of pharmaceuticals held meetings with domestic drugmakers who have the license agreement with Gilead to make and market remdesivir in India. 

Government sources indicated in August, the makers have committed to supply 815,000 doses of remdesivir. The supplies have started to pick up and has eased out the shortage, claim sources. “The calls at our helpline numbers have reduced in the past few days, indicating that people are able to buy remdesivir when needed,” said one of the manufacturers. 

Sharvil Patel, managing director of Cadila Healthcare, said Covid patients would have better access to Remdac as it would be affordable. 

“Our efforts have been focussed on supporting people in this health care crisis, whether it is through developing vaccines, ramping up production and distribution of critical drugs and therapies, making diagnostic tests available or exploring new treatment options,” Patel said.

In June, Zydus Cadila had entered into a non-exclusive agreement with Gilead to make and sell remdesivir, the investigational drug that has been issued an emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat Covid patients. 

The Zydus group had earlier ramped up production of hydroxychloroquine and dexamethasone and is conducting clinical trials with Pegylated Interferon Alfa-2b and Desidustat for the treatment and management of Covid-19. 

Nearly 300,000 Covid Kavach Elisa diagnostic tests have also been supplied for surveillance. The group’s plasmid DNA vaccine ZyCoV-D is in phase II clinical trials.

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