India’s largest drug maker Sun Pharmaceutical Industries is readying to start trials on a few drugs that have emerged as potential treatment candidates for Covid-19. This includes an anti-coagulant and anti-inflammatory drug nafamostat and another plant-based dengue drug candidate that Sun Pharma
was developing along with government research institutes.
The development comes at a time when several Indian companies are lining up testing of potential drug candidates on Covid-19 patients. Mumbai-based Glenmark, too, has started trials on favipiravir, an influenza drug that has shown some promise.
Sun Pharma’s stock was up 3.5 per cent on the BSE on Friday. A group of scientists from University of Tokyo, Japan, and Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Germany, have demonstrated that nafamostat, at very low concentrations, suppresses a protein that the Covid-19 virus uses to enter human lung cells. Another group from Institute Pasteur, South Korea, also published data comparing antiviral efficacy of 24 drugs and nafamostat, against SARSCoV-2 in in-vitro studies. The International Journal of Infectious Diseases said, in a May 26 report, three cases of Covid-19 pneumonia improved after treatment with nafamostat and that preliminary findings show that this drug can be considered for use in elderly patients with Covid-19 pneumonia.
At present, there are three clinical trials underway to test nafamostat in Covid-19 patients around the world. Sun Pharma
plans to start the India trials soon, but has not given a timeline for completion of the same.
Dilip Shanghvi, managing director, Sun Pharma, said: “Sun Pharma is evaluating potential targets that can be explored for treating Covid-19 patients. Nafamostat has shown promising data against SARS-CoV-2 virus in in-vitro studies conducted by three independent groups of scientists in Europe, Japan, and South Korea. We believe it holds promise in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.” Nafamostat is currently not sold in India. Sun Pharma has initiated manufacturing of both, the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and the finished product of nafamostat in India, using technology from Pola Pharma Japan.
Meanwhile, Sun Pharma has also received the DCGI nod to conduct clinical trials on a repurposed dengue drug that it was developing with government research institutes. In 2016, the company had started working on this botanical medicine with the Department of Biotechnology - International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (DBT-ICGEB) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research- Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM).
In April, the company submitted a proposal to the DCGI to conduct clinical trials to test the efficacy of the drug derived from plant sources on Covid-19. Sources claimed the company received the regulator’s nod last month. The trials are yet to start.