New Delhi, 30 April (By ISW ): The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been leading the fight against COVID-19 epidemic on multiple fronts. Among those, the Council has laid a major emphasis on repurposed drugs as they can be quickly deployed for treatment as opposed to new drugs, which need almost a decade of development. Globally, many drugs are under clinical trials on coronavirus patients to establish their efficacy against COVID-19.
Towards providing drugs for coronavirus patients in India, CSIR has identified 25 drugs/drug candidates for repurposing. Among these 25 drugs, Favipiravir – a broad spectrum inhibitor of viral RNA polymerase – has emerged as of one of the most promising drugs. Favipiravir was developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Ltd., and is an approved treatment for common influenza and is marketed in Russia, China and Japan.
CSIR-IICT, based in Hyderabad, has developed a convenient and cost-effective synthetic process for Favipiravir. As a collaborative effort with industry, CSIR-IICT transferred the entire process and significant quantities of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) of Favipiravir to Cipla, a leading pharmaceutical company. Cipla will be conducting the investigations prior to the launching of this drug against COVID-19 in India. Cipla has already approached the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), the regulatory authority, for its approval of Favipiravir to be launched in India. Favipiravir is a generic drug and already being used for the treatment of influenza and is also in clinical trials for COVID-19 in many countries such as China, Japan and Italy. Under the auspices of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Cipla will conduct a suitable limited trial prior to marketing the product as Ciplenza.
CSIR and Cipla have a long history of working together for affordable drugs in India and overseas. Many of the technologies for HIV generic drugs were established at CSIR labs and Cipla was successful in providing affordable treatment to HIV patients worldwide, which led to saving millions of lives. They have assured the government that they will do the same for Favirpiravir.