It started with two IIT Bombay alumni having an ambitious vision to make quality medication more affordable and accessible to millions of people across India. This vision became a reality in the shape of a chain of generic focused specialized omnichannel pharmacy under the name ‘Zeno Health’.
Founded in 2017 by IIT Bombay alumni, Siddharth Gadia and Girish Agarwal, Zeno Health is among the fastest growing pharmacy retail businesses in Mumbai with 80+ outlets already operational in various localities across Mumbai. With a team of 800+ committed employees and a customer base of over 10 lakh extremely satisfied customers, Zeno Health has already delivered savings of over Rs 150 crore to consumers in Mumbai in a span of just 3 years.
Speaking to the Free Press Journal, Zeno Health's Co-Founder & Director Girish Agarwal, opened up on the benefits of the anti-viral drug Remdesivir and more.
Here are edited excerpts from the interview:
1) How helpful and effective is Remdesivir?
Remdesivir is a patented antiviral drug manufactured by Gilead (US), initially developed for the treatment of viral hepatitis, and a cold-like virus called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Due to its initial response against the virus, US FDA approved this drug to treat COVID-19.
Remdesivir was proven useful for those in hospitals and on oxygen and it can't be taken as a regular antibiotic. It is a misconception that Remdesivir as a miracle cure for Covid. In fact, most patients don’t require Remdesivir for surviving this disease.
Remedesivir works by interrupting production of the virus and it helps by preventing the virus from multiplying. The mechanism appears very promising, but the actual effect on patients is not so. In India, the Ministry of Health also recommended it as an investigational therapy in their COVID-19 management protocol document, however, clarified that it is not a "life-saving drug".
2. Is it necessary to give Remdesivir in the early stages of detections?
Yes, doctors have been stating that Remdesivir should be given only in the first week, along with convalescent plasma, to moderate and severe COVID patients. Optimal timing for Remdesivir is usually after five to seven days of having the virus for the patient admitted to the hospital, to be given in 5 doses only.
3. What is the current situation of Remdesivir?
India reported less than 30,000 daily Covid-19 cases from December 2020 till mid-February 2021, which caused a dip in demand for Remedesivir, and manufacturers had cut back on production. India also exported close to 11 lakh injections of Remdesivir to over 100 countries over the past 6 months. But the recent spike in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations have led to an increase in demand for Remdesivir.
In April, the government banned the export of Remdesivir injections and Remdesivir (API) till the situation improves in the country. The Union Health Ministry has asked all domestic manufacturers to display details of their Remdesivir stockists/distributors to ensure easy access of hospitals and patients.
Maharashtra has set up district-level control rooms to prevent black-marketing. The state has also slashed the price of Remdesivir to Rs. 900.
4. What other medicine is being asked for in abundance?
There is already a shortage of Favipiravir & Tocilizumab in the country and if this trend of the second wave continues there might be a shortage in most Covid-19 drugs including antiviral Favipiravir, immunosuppressant Tocilizumab and Multivitamins.
5. Is Zeno Health getting calls from patients asking for COVID19 medicines, specifically Remdesivir?
There are more than 40-50 inquiries received in a day. However, due to the recent restriction on retail against the sale of Remdesivir imposed, we are not able to serve the consumers. Unfortunately, the overall supply situation of Remdesivir is completely unknown even at hospitals. We are not even able to guide patients to a definitive source. The situation on ground is appalling and we want to be a part of the solution and solving it for Mumbai.