India’s Glenmark to study potential COVID-19 drug combination

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Men talk while maintaining social distancing, after the government allowed domestic flight services to resume from coming Monday, during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport, in New Delhi, India, May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd <GLEN.NS> said on Tuesday it would begin a clinical trial in India to test a combination of two anti-viral drugs, favipiravir and umifenovir, as a potential COVID-19 treatment.

Glenmark has secured Indian regulatory approval for the study, which will aim to enroll 158 hospitalized patients with moderate COVID-19, the company said.

Drugmakers across the world have been rushing to develop a treatment or vaccine for the novel coronavirus, which has infected 5.5 million people globally, killing more than 345,000, according to a Reuters tally. In India, now among the 10 most affected nations, the death toll reached 4,167 on Tuesday.

Favipiravir is made under the brand name Avigan by Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp <4901.T> and was approved for use as an anti-flu drug there in 2014, while umifenovir is licensed as a treatment for some types of flu infections in Russia and China.

Japan said on Tuesday Fujifilm will continue research on Avigan into June, effectively dashing hopes that the drug would be approved as a COVID-19 treatment this month.

Glenmark is also conducting clinical trials in India of just favipiravir as a potential COVID-19 treatment, for which it expects results by July or August. Favipiravir is also undergoing trials in other countries.

“The two antiviral drugs have different mechanism of action, and their combination may demonstrate improved treatment efficacy,” the Mumbai-headquartered drugmaker said.

Glenmark did not respond to an email requesting more details on the trials. Its shares ended 1.1% lower on Tuesday.

Another Indian drugmaker – Strides Pharma <SRID.NS> – is also set to begin clinical trials of favipiravir as a potential COVID-19 treatment.

Shares in Indian drugmakers have been on a tear this year. India’s Nifty pharma index <.NIPHARM> has risen 18% this year, compared with a 26% slide in the blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 <.NSEI>.

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