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Cipla ready to partner in Covid vaccine distribution

By Sohini Das
May 17, 2021 17:30 IST
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However, Cipla was very clear it does not want to get into vaccine manufacturing. 

Sohini Das reports. 

IMAGE: Healthcare workers wearing PPE kits carry syringes towards a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Jammu. Photograph: PTI Photo

Cipla, which has a strong portfolio of Covid-19 drugs, says it is now open to forge a partnership to distribute Covid vaccines in India.

"We are open to having a vaccine partnership. A company that will be able to do vaccine distribution successfully in India will have significant distribution muscle -- like large warehouses, cold chain capabilities, footprint throughout India. We fit the bill well. We are open to it, but as of now nothing to report," said Kedar Upadhye, global CFO of Cipla.

Cipla does not want to get into vaccine manufacturing.

It is augmenting its Covid-19 therapy portfolio too.

Analysts felt the Covid portfolio may contribute Rs 2,000 crore in sales in FY22.

The company already makes and markets antiviral drugs like Remdesivir, Favipiravir in India apart from importing and distributing Roche's Tocilizumab (Actemra).

Its Covid-19 portfolio roughly accounted for 5 per cent of Cipla's domestic turnover in 2020-21.

In the second wave, Cipla has added more products to its kitty -- MSD's Molnupiravir (oral antiviral), Eli Lilly's Baricitinib (oral drug used for inflammatory and autoimmune disorders), and Roche's antibody cocktail for Covid-19.

Molnupiravir is an investigational drug which is currently being studied in a phase 3 trial for treatment of non-hospitalised patients with Covid-19.

Upadhye thus said that bringing Molnupiravir, an MSD drug, will take some time.

"It may take a few months. Once it is approved in the US, the corresponding application will be done in India," he said.

In comparison, Eli Lilly's Baricitinib can be launched sooner.

Cipla will be manufacturing the drug here too along with the bulk drug.

As for Roche's antibody cocktail (Casirivimab and Imdevimab), it can be expected to be available in the next few days.

The antibody cocktail (Casirivimab and Imdevimab) is to be administered for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid patients aged 12 years and above.

On March 23, Roche announced that a large phase III global trial in high-risk non-hospitalised Covid-19 patients ('outpatients') met its primary endpoint, showing that Casirivimab and Imdevimab significantly reduced the risk of hospitalisation or death by 70 percent compared to placebo.

Casirivimab and Imdevimab also shortened the duration of symptoms by four days, Cipla has said.

Adding to this, Cipla's respiratory product budesonide, is now actively used in Covid treatment.

"Noticing strong tailwinds for the India portfolio, especially on Remdesivir and antibody cocktails (once launched). Budesonide is now part of the treatment protocol. Remdesivir output almost 5-times of last peak," noted Kunal Randeria, analyst with Edelweiss Securities.

Cipla feels that Covid will continue to be an important part of its therapy portfolio over the next few years.

"Next one or two years Covid will continue to be an important part of the therapy portfolio and that is why every company is tapping into it. Acute will not do well in these times, and even some respiratory drugs may also suffer," Upadhye said.

He did not wish to comment on whether Covid contribution will be more than 5 per cent of the domestic turnover.

Randeria said, "FY22 is likely to be driven by domestic Covid portfolio (Remdesivir, Roche's antibody cocktail and increasing budesonide use) that can contribute as much as Rs 2000 crore in sales."

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Sohini Das in Mumbai
Source: source
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