India to become global hub for COVID-19 antiviral generic drug production as omicron looms, says Fitch

Big pharmaceutical companies like Cipla, Sun Pharma and Dr. Reddy’s are set to release anti COVID-19 pill molnupiravir in the coming weeks following Indian drug regulator’s emergency approval, Fitch Solutions said.

Big pharmaceutical companies in the country like Cipla Limited, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories are set to release molnupiravir capsules in the coming weeks following Indian drug regulator's approval. (File Photo: Reuters)

India will become the largest global hub for production of COVID-19 antiviral generic drugs such as molnupiravir, as the country braces for rising infection rates due to omicron-variant led third wave, said Fitch Solutions. Big pharmaceutical companies in the country like Cipla Ltd, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories are set to release molnupiravir capsules in the coming weeks following Indian drug regulator’s emergency use approval, Fitch added.

A total of 13 companies in India will make molnupiravir, the country’s health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said last week. According to Fitch, other pharma firms in the country are also expected to follow suit. The anti COVID-19 pill molnupiravir, which has been developed by US based Merck & Co and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, costs $712 in the United States. While in India the 5-day treatment will be highly affordable with Dr Reddy pricing the full treatment for Rs 1400 ($18.79) or Rs 35 a tablet for the generic version.

“With this relatively low cost, we expect molnupiravir generic versions to significantly increase access in India and other LMICs (low and middle income countries) after regulatory approvals,” Fitch said.

According to Fitch, the generic antiviral pill will also help in simplifying current supply-chain related challenges. “Moreover, these oral antiviral drugs will lead to lower costs of transport and distribution compared with Covid-19 intravenous antivirals such as Ronapreve (casirivimab/imdevimab) or Veklury (remdesivir). Having a solid, compact form, oral drugs, does not need … glass vials, and the tablets can be tightly packed without risk of breakage,” the rating agency added.

On Friday, India reported 1.17 lakh COVID-19 cases in a day, the highest daily jump in months. Fitch said increased access to molnupiravir will keep hospitalisations and deaths in India to a manageable level as omicron infections rise. Separately, the Indian Council of Medical Research said Thursday it did not add molnupiravir pill to its recommended treatment list, citing major safety concerns.

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