The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has directed the pharmaceutical major Cipla Ltd to upscale the supply and availability of tocilizumab injection in Gujarat which is getting used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The national drug pricing regulator has also asked Cipla to share three months supply plan for Gujarat and other states in the country.
“The drug tocilizumab injection is primarily meant for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). But it has shown promising results in COVID-19 treatment, based on its novel use at Gandhinagar Civil Hospital where two patients in the age group of 40 to 45 have successfully recovered on May 7, 2020 before even putting them on ventilator support,” informed Gujarat FDCA Commissioner, Dr HG Koshia.
The incident was shared with the state health department and with the Chief Minister. Then, on the recommendation of Gujarat FDCA, the state’s high powered COVID committee directed the distributors in the state to immediately procure 20 -25 vials on urgent basis, he added.
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“Available in dosage of 80 mg per vial, 200 mg per vial and 400 mg, the injection is very expensive. Gujarat government has maintained that human life is paramount and expense is not the concern area,” Gujarat FDCA commissioner further explained.
Based on the ongoing correspondences of Gujarat Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) and NPPA, 250 injections of tocilizumab have been currently sourced out from the Cipla’s depot in Bangalore by a Gujarat stockist.
As of today, 40 injections have been kept for retail drug supply and 210 injections for government supply where the drug is given free of cost to the patients, Dr Koshia informed.
In India, the drug is sold under the brand name Actemra. Tocilizumab manufactured by Roche pharma and marketed by Mumbai-based Cipla is today being used on COVID-19 patients who suffer from extreme immune system response towards the infection, called cytokine storm, leading to multi organ failure and eventually death.
Tocilizumab in certain trial studies has shown to slow down the cytokine response in COVID-19 patients by modulating a protein called IL6. Union health ministry has separately approved a few hospitals in India to start multi-centre trial of this drug for critical patients of COVID-19.