Gilead Sciences announced plans to help India alleviate a shortage of remdesivir, a drug widely-used to treat Covid-19, as the country experiences a record surge in new infections.
The California-based pharmaceutical company said in a statement on Monday evening it would provide its voluntary licensing partners with “technical assistance”, help set up new manufacturing facilities and donate a key ingredient “to rapidly scale up production” of remdesivir.
The company said all seven of its licensees in India have “significantly accelerated production” of remdesivir by increasing their batch sizes, adding new manufacturing facilities and involving other contract manufacturers across the country.
Gilead said that “while these efforts are expected to increase availability of remdesivir in the coming weeks”, it would donate at least 450,000 vials of the antiviral to India “to help ease the immediate need for treatment.”
Remdesivir had once been hailed as wonder drug for treating Covid-19, but the World Health Organization last year concluded it had no meaningful effect on a patient’s chance of survival. It has, however, been an important part of India’s efforts to treat coronavirus.
India recently set a record for the number of new coronavirus cases reported in a single day in any country, and the surge in infections has put its hospital system under severe strain. Authorities in New Delhi have prohibited the use of oxygen cylinders, except for essential industries.
In mid-April, India blocked exports of remdesivir out of concern there would be a shortage of the drug. Days later, over 800 shots of the drug were stolen from a government hospital in Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh, exacerbating supply constraints.
Europe and the UK are set to step up assistance to India. The Biden administration said on Monday the US would send up to 60m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine overseas. Although the White House did not say where the jabs would go, demand from India will probably be high.