The Maharashtra government, which is struggling to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, has decided to procure Itolizumab (a monoclonal antibody) and distribute them at a district level to treat moderate to severe cases. This move comes after the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted restricted emergency use of Itolizumab based on the clinical trials data for the treatment of such cases. DCGI has laid down conditions for its use, including the informed consent of patients, a risk management plan and its application in a hospital set up only.
Biocon has been manufacturing and marketing this drug for the treatment of patients with moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis since 2013 under brand name Alzumab. This indigenous drug has now been repurposed for COVID-19.
Minister of Public Health Rajesh Tope told the Free Press Journal, “The government is paying adequate attention to the availability of drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. With DCGI’s approval, it will certainly procure Itolizumab and distribute it to the districts, so that it can be available there. Itolizumab is priced way below the price of Tocilizamab, which is currently in short supply.’’ He informed that his department will soon work out a plan for the purchase and distribution of Itolizumab.
Tope said the government has stepped up efforts to bring down the fatality rate and also keep the morale of health workers and frontline warriors high in the fight against the virus.
Minister of Food and Drug Administration Dr Rajendra Shingane also said that Itolizumab will be procured for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in the state.
The Union Ministry of Health has clearly said that the average cost of treatment with Itolizumab is lesser than comparable drugs, which are part of the ‘Investigational Therapies’ indicated in the Clinical Management Protocol for COVID-19.