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Lifesaving coronavirus drug Dexamethasone costs less than 30 paise; 20 cos sell in India

India exports 5.35 lakh tonnes of Dexamethasone worth $15.34 million. US is the bigger buyer worth $5.17 million, Nigeria $ 1.88 million, Canada $1.02 million, Russian Federation $0.92 million and Uganda $0.91 million

twitter-logoPB Jayakumar | June 18, 2020 | Updated 07:48 IST
Lifesaving coronavirus drug Dexamethasone costs less than 30 paise; 20 cos sell in India
An important large clinical trial among 2,104 patients in the UK initiated by the University of Oxford has proved the drug can reduce deaths by one-third in ventilated coronavirus patients

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • India has at least 20 established brands selling the drug; a strip of ten tablets costs less than Rs 3 in India
  • Indian exports the drug to over 107 countries; in FY20 India exported Dexamethasone worth $15.34 million
  • Dexamethasone is used in the treatment of rheumatic problems, skin diseases, allergies, asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, dental and eye inflammation

The corticosteroid Dexamethasone, which is believed to be effective in coronavirus treatment, is likely to be the next repurposed drug that may bring Indian drug makers like Zydus Cadila, Wockhardt, Cadila Pharmaceuticals, GLS Pharma and Wyeth Ltd in the spotlight. Fortunately for coronavirus patients, the drug is cheap and costs less than Rs 3 for a strip of 10 tables.

 

Also read: Coronavirus vaccine, drug update: Dexamethasone's potency as first life saving drug raises hopes

An important large clinical trial among 2,104 patients in the UK initiated by the University of Oxford has proved the drug can reduce deaths by one-third in ventilated coronavirus patients and by one-fifth in patients on oxygen with severe respiratory complications related to the virus. Details of the study are yet to be published.

At least 20 established brands sell Dexamethasone as tablets, injections and oral drops. The current market size of the drug is above Rs 100 crore a year. The leading brands selling the drug are Dexona (in all three forms) from Zydus Cadila, Decdan from Wockhardt (manufactured by its old unit Merind), Demisone injections and Dexasone tablets from Cadila Pharmaceuticals,  Decmax from GLS Pharma, C-Dex from Morepan Labs, Dexamine from Baroda Pharmaceuticals and Wymesone from Wyeth Ltd. A time-tested and widely prescribed drug, Dexamethasone is very cheap in India. A strip of ten tablets (0.5 mg) from Wyeth costs only Rs 2.23, a Wockhardt's Decdan (0.5mg)  tablet strip costs only Rs 2.17 and that of Zydus Cadila's Dexona costs only Rs 2.73, say trade sources. Most of the manufacturers have active pharmaceutical ingredient(API) making capabilities and there are many small and medium scale domestic API makers as well.

Also read: UK steroid Dexamethasone shows life-saving qualities in serious COVID-19 patients

Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid made in 1957 and approved in global markets since 1961, is used in the treatment of many diseases like rheumatic problems, skin diseases, allergies, asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, dental and eye inflammation. Corticosteroids are a class of drugs that reduces inflammation and ease swelling, itching, redness, and allergic reactions, doctors often prescribe them to help treat diseases.

Indian companies companies also export Dexamethasone, a drug in the list of World Health Organisation (WHO)'s essential list, to over 107 countries, though value realisations are less. In the year 2019-2020 (Apr-Jan period), India exported Dexamethasone worth $15.34 million with a volume of 5.34 lakh tonnes in solid and liquid form. The top five destinations were the US ($5.17 million), Nigeria ($ 1.88 million), Canada ($1.02 million), Russian Federation ($0.92 million) and Uganda ($0.91 million). These top 5 countries account for over 64.54% of the total Dexamethasone export from India. US is the largest market for Dexamethasone exports, with 33.7 percent, followed by Nigeria. The top 10 countries have a share of 83.18% of the Dexamethasone export value from India, say industry data.

Sources said it is early to judge the potential of the drug, as it is a masking agent and is used mostly in combinations for various disease conditions. The UK trial has not revealed those details and are yet to come out with detailed clinical data, they noted.

Also read: WHO chief scientist hails Dexamethasone success in trials says will impact treatment guidelines

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