A week after Natco Pharma sought a compulsory license from government of India to manufacture COVID treatment drug Baricitinib, the US firm holding the rights to the drug — Eli Lilly — seems to have agreed to let several companies to manufacture and sell the drug.
Baricitinib is used for treating joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients, and is being used in COVID-19 patients along with Remdesivir to manage inflammation.
Like Remdesivir, Baricitinib is also extremely difficult to find in India due to the high demand triggered by the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world.
Indian drugs manufacturer Torrent Pharmaceuticals today said Eli Lilly has entered into a “royalty free, non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreement” allowing Natco to join a “group of leading Indian pharmaceutical companies” authorized to manufacture baricitinib for Covid-19 in India.
“Under the agreement, Lilly has provided the license to manufacture and distribute baricitinib to Torrent for India along with Lilly’s other license partners.
“The agreement will help ensure wider reach and access to patients in India and further adds to Torrent Pharma’s effort in helping patients af fected by the pandemic,” it said.
The news comes in the wake of extreme shortage of essential drugs that has triggered widespread ‘black marketing’.
Remdesivir, for example, is being sold at as much as ten times its original price in black market, and a patient can end up spending lakhs of rupees just on drugs that offer symptomatic relief.
Many hospitals and clinics have also started charging up to Rs 80,000 per day for admitting COVID patients and providing them beds with oxygen.
The black marketing of essential drugs and price gouging by unscrupulous clinics has made life difficult for patients and families and many households now face the choice of going into bankruptcy or letting a family member die due to lack of oxygen and drugs.
The rights for Remdesivir is held by US-based Gilead Sciences, and there has been no reports of any Indian company seeking compulsory licensing for the drug.
Compulsory licensing refers to seeking permission from the government to manufacture a drug even if the original rights holder refuses to issue a license.
Meanwhile, in a statement today, Torrent Pharma pointed out that Baricitinib has been approved by the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) for restricted emergency use in combination with Remdesivir. It can be used for suspected or laboratory confirmed Covid-19 in hospitalized adults requiring supplemental oxygen, invasive mechanical ventilation or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
Commenting on the agreement, Aman Mehta, Chief Marketing Officer for Torrent said the partnership with Eli Lilly will help the nation fight the pandemic and provide quality treatment to patients.
“Torrent Group stands firmly committed to support the nation during this time of crisis,” he said.
Torrent Pharma, with annual revenues of more than Rs 7,900 crores, is the flagship of the Rs. 21,500 crore Torrent Group.
It is ranked 8th in the Indian Pharmaceuticals Market and is amongst the Top 5 in the therapeutics segments of Cardiovascular (CV), Central Nervous System (CNS), and Vitamins Minerals Nutrients(VMN).
It is a specialty-focused company with 76% of its revenue in India from chronic & sub‐chronic therapies and has presence in 40 countries and is ranked No. 1 amongst the Indian pharma Companies in Brazil, Germany and Philippines.
Torrent has eight manufacturing facilities, including seven in India.