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Ahmedabad-based pharmaceutical giant Zydus Cadila recently announced that its drug Virafin had received restricted, emergency use approval from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to treat adult Covid patients with moderate symptoms. The antiviral drug, administered via an injection, would soon be available in three districts of Uttar Pradesh, namely Lucknow, Varanasi and Prayagraj. The drug is expected to be available in one Covid hospital in each of the three districts in the next two-three days, IANS news agency reported quoting the government spokesperson.
"The fact that we are able to offer a therapy which significantly reduces the viral load when given early on can help in better disease management," Dr Sharvil Patel, Managing Director, Cadila Healthcare Limited said in an official statement after receiving the DGCI nod on April 23.
In technical terms, Virafin is pegylated interferon alpha-2b. Interferons are signalling proteins found in our bodies that act as immunological agents, helping the body's immune system defend against viral infections. This antiviral drug was earlier used to help treat Hepatitis C before it was repurposed for COVID-19. But some studies had conducted in 2004 that the drug is effective in the treatment of SARS, the first variant of coronavirus.
Zydus Cadila claims that Virafin helps COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, in recuperation. It makes COVID-19 treatment 'less cumbersome and more affordable, it said. As mentioned in the company's registration on the Clinical Trial Registry of India, the phase 2 clinical trial of Virafin was conducted with 40 patients who had moderate COVID-19, and phase 3 with 250 patients. In its press release, the company noted that the DCGI approval was granted based on data from both the trials.
The phase 2 trial results were described in a paper published in the April 2021 issue of International Journal of Infectious Diseases. According to Zydus Cadila, 91.15% of the COVID-19 patients who participated in the phase 3 trial of the drug recovered from the virus in just seven days after being administered with the first dose.
The drug can now be sold at drug stores and other pharmacies, but a doctor's prescription will be needed to buy it.
With inputs from agencies
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