The COVID-19 pandemic hit industries across the globe as countries adopted various measures that included travel restrictions, border closures to imposing nationwide lockdown, in a bid to contain or slowdown the spread of virus. Almost six months after the novel corona virus was first diagnosed in China, the number of patients, currently standing at 6 million, continues to soar along with number of reported deaths.
COVID-19 patients are admitted with varying conditions, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach or one medicine to treat them. Healthcare organisations have been testing the use of various anti-viral drugs to treat patients based on their symptoms. Transfusions with convalescent plasma is understood to be a safe approach in treating COVID patients, according to doctors at John Hopkins University. Early results from countries like China suggested improvement in patients administered with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, used primarily to treat malaria. However, recent studies published by the Lancet journal have raised concerns of hydroxychloroquine increased in-hospital patient mortality.
All said and done, emergence of a drug can help deliver positive results in treating patients. As countries brace to overcome this pandemic, pharma majors, scientists and governments have been speeding efforts to come up with a potential vaccine for COVID-19. According to clinicaltrials. gov, more than 1,900 studies are underway, and several companies have already ventured into clinical trials and early tests to determine vaccines are safe. Large pharma companies such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer have announced plans to produce and make available tens of millions of doses by mid-to-late 2020. Gilead Sciences has obtained approval to use Remdesivir, its antiviral drug, in emergency, in India, U.S. and South Korea, after showing moderate signs of improvement in COVID-19 patients over a five-day course. However, there was no major improvement in patients who received the drug for 10 days.
While efforts are on to test and get vaccines ready for treatment, scientists have notably warned that any rush to fast-track clinical trials could prove counter-productive and result in a catastrophe. Another challenge facing the global pharma industry is responding to the supply chain disruptions causing vulnerabilities in patient treatment during a pandemic. For the pharmaceutical supply chain, major challenge lies in China being at the centre for both demand and supply. The current situation has presented an opportunity to the Indian pharma industry to become a preferred alternate hub for manufacturing APIs and intermediates. Companies will do well to relook at their supply chain strategies, focus on risk management in a bid to build resilience to overcome challenges.
The latest issue of our magazine contains articles revolving around COVID-19, its impact on the pharma industry, the need to focus on risk assessment and future control of pandemics and how this presents an opportunity for Indian pharma to become more self-reliant.