India's coronavirus drug market set for price war as firms ready launches

A health official collects a swab sample from a woman to test for the Covid-19 inside a government school, in New Delhi. Photo: ANI
The Covid-19 cure drugs market in India is set for pricing competitions with multiple companies gearing up for launch. After Gilead’s injectable drug remdesivir, oral antiviral drug favipiravir is set to see some price erosion. Price erosion to the tune of 40 per cent is expected soon, industry says. 

According to sources, companies such as Lupin  are among the majors that are looking to launch favipiravir under their own brands after Glenmark launched its FabiFlu. Strides Pharma has already got approval from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to conduct a bio-equivalence study on favipiravir in India. Cipla and BDR Pharma are working together to launch the drug soon. Hyderabad-based Optimus Pharma is exporting the drug to about 10 countries and is readying to manufacture for the domestic market, too. Haridwar-based Synokem Pharma is gearing up to launch this oral antiviral. 

Lupin did not confirm the development. Sources say Cipla-BDR’s favipiravir will be at least 30 per cent cheaper than Glenmark’s price of Rs 103 per tablet. Cipla did not confirm.  

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Most companies, however, will go for contract manufacturing of the drug and market it under its own brand name. Glenmark is making it at Baddi and BDR will make it for Cipla. 

“At least 50 brands are expected to hit the market within a month,” said an industry insider. Prashanth Reddy, director of Optimus Pharma, said their proposal was lying before the DCGI. “We have submitted all relevant data and the proposal will now be reviewed by the Subject Expert Committee. We can make 1 million tablets in one batch. Depending on demand, we can make around ten batches in a month," Reddy said. 

This implies Optimus can potentially supply 10 million tablets to the Indian market every month. It plans to export under its own brand and forge partnerships with domestic companies for India. These companies will use their marketing muscle to sell the drug in the retail market. 

Analysts peg the market size for the drug to be around Rs 200-300 crore, as not every patient would be prescribed a course of Rs 3,500 for a pack of 34 tablets (the Glenmark price). Another industry source revealed that the pricing correction in this case is not only inevitable but also in patient interest. “If a family of four gets the disease and is prescribed this drug, their cost would be Rs 14,000 only on favipiravir,” he said. 

The price of the drug may come down to Rs 60 a tablet or so soon, felt the industry. 

Remdesivir, too, has witnessed price war with Hetero and Cipla pricing it differently. 

Price erosion due to competition in India is common. After Novartis patent expired for anti-diabetic drug vildagliptin, its price has crashed in the domestic market. The drug, priced around Rs 25-28 per tablet, is now made available in the market for Rs 5 a tablet by other brands.



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