Russia Approves First COVID-19 Prescription Drug; India Determined To Get Vaccine By The Beginning of 2021

Russia took the plunge yet again as it approved the first COVID-19 prescription drug for the country.

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic about six months ago, and in this time period, it has caused massive destruction across the globe. The virus has fettered the world like never before and all the countries are fighting unitedly to restore the normalcy of life. In this fight, Russia has been hitting the headlines as it is leaving no stone unturned to win the frantic global race in the fight against the virus. Until now, Russia seems to be at the forefront with its fast-tracked vaccine and prescription drugs. So what does this mean for India? Well, India is giving the country the benefit of the doubt to be open to more prospects of vaccine and antiviral drugs.

Russia approves first prescription drug to be sold in pharmacies

On 18th September, Russia gave a nod to pharmaceutical company, R-Pharm’s, Coronavir drug to treat the citizens with mild to moderate symptoms. As per the company, the antiviral drug treatment is expected to be made available to the country’s pharmacies sometime in the next week.

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According to a government register, Coronavir was first approved as a medication for in-hospital use back in July. Phase 3 clinical trials were conducted on 168 patients, following which the drug received approval. Notably, the trial is relatively small as compared to other antiviral drugs such as UK’s steroid dexamethasone which was tested on several thousand patients.

Coronavir’s approval came after the clearance of another Russian COVID-19 drug, Avifavir, which was approved for in-hospital use in May. Both Coronavir and Avifavir are based on Japan’s favipiravir which is commonly used to develop antiviral drugs.

Favipiravir was used to develop an antiviral drug, Avigan which was used as an influenza medication in 2014. Trials to test favipiravir for potential COVID-19 drug is going on in many parts of the world. Last month, Mumbai-based Glenmark Pharmaceuticals became the first in India to conduct clinical trials on favipiravir. Just about five days ago, Bangalore-based Strides Pharma got an approval from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to conduct favipiravir trials for potential drug treatment against the virus. 

India in talks with Russia for the advancement of Sputnik V in the country

The Indian government, on Friday, stated that India is in touch with Russia to push the advancement of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in India. News agency PTI reported:

[India is] exploring the possibility of cooperation between the two countries for advancing the COVID-19 vaccine in the country.

In August, Russia became the first country in the world to register a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine – developed jointly by Moscow’s Gamaleya Research Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund – received the regulatory approval after less than 2 months of testing. Even amidst all the scepticism, Russia inked a deal with several countries to supply the vaccine.

In fact, this week, India’s Dr Reddy’s Laboratories signed a partnership with Russia to procure 10 crore doses of the vaccine. The Indian drugmaker will conduct clinical trials on this vaccine and if the central regulatory body grants approval, the vaccine will be distributed in India by the end of the year or early 2021. The Health Ministry of India also stated that if successful, the vaccine will be distributed under the guidelines of the Universal Immunization Program (UIP).

Union Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan, talking about the advancement of vaccine candidates of India, stated:

Nationally, nearly 30 vaccine candidates are under development, by both industry and academia. These vaccines are in different stages of pre-clinical and clinical development of which three candidates are in advanced stage of Phase I/II/III trials and four are in advanced pre-clinical development stage.

Vaccine by early 2021?

In an earlier statement, Harsh Vardhan stated that an expert team is studying the leading vaccine prospects to bring a vaccine in the country by the first quarter of next year. However, medical experts believe that the vaccine will be available no earlier than the middle of next year.

Nevertheless, the current vaccine prospects for the country look very promising. In the first week of this month, clinical trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had been put on a halt after an unexpected adverse reaction in one of the subjects of the trial. However, a review from an independent committee deemed it safe for further trials following which India’s SII also resumed the testing process shortly after. Time and again, AstraZeneca has claimed that the vaccine will be available to the masses by the end of the year. Even if this becomes true, the Health Minister noted that it would take a long time for the vaccine to be administered to each and every one. He said that even though the government is putting efforts to push the vaccine development, it is very difficult to get an idea of the exact timeline of the various stages involved in vaccine development and distribution.

Pushing vaccine research is of crucial importance as India remains one of the worst-affected countries in the world. This time is of utmost importance to devise a proper strategy to implement the inoculation programme. Several questions have to be answered as to who will be the first ones to get vaccinated and whether the hotspots will be prioritised to reduce community transmission.

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