TREATMENT

Indian firm to send Covid-19 drug doses to Kenya

Remdesivir reduces the chances of a patient dying by 62 per cent

In Summary

• The drug will now be distributed in Kenya by the Indian firm Cipla, which has been licensed by the American patent holder Gilead Sciences. 

• Separately, Kenya is recruiting patients to test remdesivir and tocilizumab drugs in the solidarity trial of drugs sponsored by the World Health Organisation.


Remdesivir can only be given to hospitalised patients.
Remdesivir can only be given to hospitalised patients.
Image: Reuters

An Indian drug maker has been granted a licence to distribute in Kenya the world's only approved Covid-19 drug. 

A global study co-authored by Eldoret-based physician Dr Shamim Ali shows the drug, known as remdesivir, reduces the odds of death of Covid-19 patients by 62 per cent compared to standard-of-care treatment.

The drug will now be distributed in Kenya by the Indian firm Cipla, which has been licensed by the American patent holder Gilead Sciences. 

The Indian company said it applied to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board to ship the drug to Kenya on July 17 and expects a response by month-end.  

The commercial head of Cipla in Sub-Saharan Africa, Martin Sweeney, said, “Cipla will make remdesivir available in Kenya at a significantly reduced price in comparison to other markets." 

Buyers will get a vial at Sh5,500 but the patient may pay more because private providers will put a mark-up on the product.

But generally, the entire treatment costs about Sh253,000 in Kenya.

Cipla said it is administered by intravenous infusion over five days and can therefore only be given to hospitalised patients.

The patient gets two vials (200mg) on the first day, and one vial per day on subsequent days.

Initially, the drug had been developed for the treatment of Ebola.

The US Food and Drug Administration granted the Emergency Use Authorization for Covid-19 on May 1, mainly based upon a study that showed that remdesivir shortened the time to recovery in patients hospitalized with Covid-19.

The latest study by Moi University lecturer Dr Shamim and 21 other physicians around the world has been published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, owned by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

They compared the efficacy of remdesivir, versus standard-of-care treatment in adults with severe Covid-19 using data from a phase 3 remdesivir trials around the world. 

At day 14, 74.4 per cent of patients in the remdesivir cohort had recovered versus 59 per cent in the non-remdesivir cohort.

At day 14, only 7.6 per cent of patients in the remdesivir cohort had died versus 12.5 per cent in the non-remdesivir cohort.

"In this comparative analysis, remdesivir was associated with significantly lower mortality and higher recovery than standard-of-care treatment without remdesivir in patients with severe Covid-19," the researchers say.

The study began on March 9 and is ongoing at 45 sites in the USA, Italy, Spain, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Separately, Kenya is recruiting patients to test remdesivir and tocilizumab drugs in the solidarity trial of drugs sponsored by the World Health Organisation.

The study will take place at the Kenyatta National Hospital, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Kenyatta University Teaching and Research Hospital, Coast General Hospital, Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, and in Kilifi at Kemri Wellcome Trust. 

It will end on February 28, 2021, and results will be published at the end of next year.