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Dr Reddy’s: Not working on Remdesivir generic; eyeing HCQ opportunity

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Dr Reddy’s: Not working on Remdesivir generic; eyeing HCQ opportunity

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GV Prasad, CEO and Co-Chairman of Dr Reddy’s told CNBC-TV18 that his company had no rights to work on a generic version of Remdesivir as Gilead still owned the patent.

Dr Reddy’s shares have risen over the past few days on speculation about the company being in the early stages of developing a generic version of anti-viral Remdesivir, owned by Gilead. The stock has risen around 32 percent over the last month and is at a 52-week high.

Remdesivir is an experimental anti-viral drug being studied for Ebola, and in some cases, used on a compassionate ground against COVID-19.
GV Prasad, CEO and Co-Chairman of Dr Reddy’s told CNBC-TV18 that his company had no rights to work on a generic version of Remdesivir as Gilead still owned the patent. Prasad also said his company was not in talks with Gilead for contract manufacturing of Remdesivir, or for any licensing agreement.
Prasad said the company was looking at opportunities in other drugs which are being explored for treating COVID-19. Anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine or HCQS is one such. Dr Reddy’s is currently selling it in the US through a local partner. So far, Dr Reddy’s had not been selling it in India, but could look at it if there is strong demand. Besides the HCQS the company sells in the US, there is no COVID-19 drug that Dr Reddy’s is associated with.
Prasad said his company was facing a shortage of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for HCQS, since its supplier is in Europe. But for the industry in general, supply was not an issue, he said.
The other drug which is being explored as a cure for COVID-19 is Ivermectin which is currently used for treating head lice. Exploring this drug as a cure for COVID-19 is at early stages with human trials not having commenced.
When asked specifically about Ivermectin, Prasad said his company continued to explore all non-patented drugs.
He is of the view that for finding a cure to COVID-19, one needs to reposition existing drugs first, followed by vaccines and try novel drugs only as the last resort.
Drug repositioning is a drug development strategy predicated on the reuse of existing licensed drugs for new medical indications. According to Prasad, repositioning existing drugs already might have a higher chance of success and novel drugs won’t be an immediate solution. The novel drugs being tested for COVID-19 include Gilead’s Remdesivir and Fujifilm’s influenza antiviral drug Avigan.
On manufacturing, Prasad said Dr Reddy’s US sites and factories were functioning, and the staff at the offices were working from home. Back home, there were some logistics issues in the initial days of the lockdown, but those have been overcome and the factories are now operating at “good” capacity, Prasad said.
He said the pace of approvals for its US drugs were progressing at a ‘normal’ rate. Similarly, Prasad said too much should not be read into the recent spate of Establishment Inspection Reports received by multiple Indian facilities over the past few days. The EIRs received according to Prasad were for the facilities which had ‘reasonably good’ inspections. For the industry as a whole, the quality of systems and level of compliance have matured resulting in these successful inspections, Prasad said.
On the fundamentals of the business, Prasad said due to the recent disruptions, his company was slightly late in responding to the queries issued by the USFDA on their two key drugs in the US pipeline — contraceptive drug Nuvaring generic and multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone generic. They are in the process of finishing some work in order to reply to the queries on these two drugs within a few weeks. There is a renewed focus on India, Prasad said. This would not be acquisitions alone but through pipeline development and marketing as well.
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