Remdesivir supply woes to ease in three weeks, says Biocon chief

BENGALURU: Biocon executive chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has said the country should be able to meet the huge demand for Remdesivir injections by the third week of May, and for Itolizumab and Tocilizumab drugs by the beginning of June.
Biocon is a major manufacturer of these drugs beind used for treatment of Covid, with varied instructions. Remdesivir is to be administered only after a medical prescription and only on severely infected patients. The other two are used for the treatment of cytokine storm caused by the coronavirus. However, only Tocilizumab is part of the health ministry’s clinical management guidelines.
“The demand had gone up due to low inventory levels and all of us are rushing to ramp up manufacturing. With all the efforts ongoing, we will be in a good place for Remdesivir in the third week of May,” she told TOI.
For Itolizumab, the surge in demand has been “crazy” and Biocon is only marketing what is there in its inventory. Since the company is the sole manufacturer of the drug worldwide, it can only catch up with the demand in June. “We are ramping up. We have limited inventory. We were not producing much earlier as there was not much demand. Our production has now gone up 3x, but the demand is 10 times that,” she said.
Unable tomeet through domestic manufacturing, the government said over the weekend that it placed import orders of 4.5 lakh vials of Remdesivir. The first 75,000 are expected by the end of this week and the remaining before July. That’s the reason, Mazumdar-Shaw said, the government needs to have a safety stock of such drugs that would be handy in case of an emergency. “The government has to underwrite some safety stock because if the demand comes down suddenly, we will be left with a huge inventory. This was poor pandemic preparedness on the part of the government,” she said.
Vaccinating the maximum number of people, she said, should be the main priority now, without considering the age band. “The government should identify people who are not infected and start giving them the shots. You can still get infected, but it will be mild and would not require hospitalisaiton. That would reduce the burden on hospitals,” she said.