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As COVID-19 cases in the country surge, drug firm Gilead Sciences on Tuesday said it is taking several steps to expand the availability of antiviral drug Remdesivir in India. It will also be donating a minimum of 4.5 lakh vials of 'Veklury’ to the Indian government.

"In response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in India, the company is providing its voluntary licensing partners with technical assistance, support for the addition of new local manufacturing facilities and the donation of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) to rapidly scale up production of Remdesivir", Gilead Sciences Inc said in a statement.

All seven of Gilead's licensees based in India--Cipla, Dr Reddy''s Laboratories, Hetero Labs, Jubilant Lifesciences, Mylan, Syngene and Zydus Cadila Healthcare--have significantly accelerated production of Remdesivir by scaling up their batch sizes, adding new manufacturing facilities and/or onboarding local contract manufacturers across the country, Gilead Sciences said on Monday.

To safeguard against disruption of generic Remdesivir supply to other low- and middle-income countries included as part of the voluntary licenses, the company is also committed to providing support to voluntary licensees based outside of India to increase their production capacity, Gilead said.

The company's planned support will include the donation of API to licensees with a view to accelerate production, it added.

"Gilead's voluntary licensing program for Remdesivir, established in May 2020, has already enabled access to the drug for more than 2.3 million people in more than 60 low- and middle-income countries", the statement said.

The program provides long-term licenses to nine manufacturers, seven of which are based in India, to enable access to Remdesivir in 127 countries, most of which are low- and low-middle income countries, including India, it added.

These licenses remain royalty-free, reflecting Gilead's existing commitment to enabling broad patient access to Remdesivir, it added.

Helping India tackle COVID crisis

Gilead will also donate at least 4,50,000 vials of Veklury (Remdesivir) to help address the immediate needs of Indian patients.

Remdesivir is approved in India for restricted emergency use for the treatment of suspected or laboratory confirmed COVID-19 in adults and children hospitalised with severe disease.

Gilead Sciences, Chief Commercial Officer, Johanna Mercier, said the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in India is having a devastating impact on communities and has created unprecedented pressure on health systems.

"We are committed to doing our part to help tackle this crisis. Our immediate focus is to help address the needs of patients in India who may benefit from Remdesivir as quickly as we can by working together with the government, health authorities and our voluntary licensees," she added.

COVID-19 cases in India

With 3,23,144 people testing positive for coronavirus infection in a day, India's total tally of COVID-19 cases has climbed to 1,76,36,307, while the national recovery rate has further dropped to 82.54 percent, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

The death toll increased to 1,97,894 with 2,771 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 AM showed.

The active cases have increased to 28,82,204 comprising 16.34 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has further dropped to 82.54 percent.

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Free Press Journal