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Free tests may be detrimental to Covid-19 fight, ICMR tells SC



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New Delhi, April 13 : The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday urged the Supreme Court to withdraw its free coronavirus test order, as it is aiming to scale up the tests in association with private labs, from 10,000 to 15,000 per day to 1 lakh per day. ICMR insisted the free-of-cost interim order passed on April 8, may work to the detriment of the cause the country is fighting.

The ICMR said the decision to involve private labs in the process of testing was taken after extensive deliberation with the national task force on all aspects. “The Central government, after elaborate and extensive discussions and deliberation with subject experts from various fields, took an administrative decision to involve private labs while imposing price cap for them to ensure that they do not charge more and cannot exploit the citizens,” it said in its affidavit, insisting it is prudent to leave such decision making to the executive.

“It is, therefore, submitted that final relief is incapable of being granted and only on this ground the ad-interim order deserves not to be continued,” the ICMR added, seeking dismissal of the petition seeking free tests for all citizens.

The apex body for the formulation and promotion of biomedical research insisted, while keeping factor of the resources not being unlimited as a pre-dominant factor, the government also considered the hardship which can be faced by the poor section of the country in the process of testing. ICMR informed the top court that unlike other routine tests being conducted in labs at the will and wish of the citizens, these tests would be conducted only after a qualified physician certifies need for such a test, and this protocol applies to both – government and private labs.

The ICMR informed the court that some of the components which are essential parts of the kits like primer probes, master mix are patent protected products, and therefore, cannot be manufactured indigenously without importing these components. It contended the resources cannot be unlimited and the government is bound to prioritise the resources in public interest.

“In view of this position, our country will have to depend upon the import of all these components. This is the problem faced by most of the countries in the world and these patent components are manufactured by few countries only which are out of India”, said ICMR.

The medical body said that Rs 1,500 is meant for screening and Rs 3,000 for confirmatory tests, if necessary. “This figure is also arrived at based upon the price of the specialised kits which are required for conducting the tests and keeping the basic price of components like swab, disposal tongue depressor, viral RNA extraction kit, primer probes, enzyme+PCR, buffer+ NF water, PCR tube, PPE etc.,”, said ICMR. The test is free of cost at 139 government labs and 67 private labs. Till April 9, 1.27 lakh tests were done.

On April 8, the apex court ordered all coronavirus patients will be tested free of cost. A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat said: “The tests relating to COVID-19 whether in approved Government Laboratories or approved private laboratories shall be free of cost.”

The apex court order came on a petition filed by advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi challenging the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advisory to fix maximum Rs 4,500 for corona test by private entities. The petitioner contended that the ICMR advisory allegedly violated Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.


With 56k new Covid cases, India’s tally mounts to 19.6L




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New Delhi, Aug 6 : With 56,282 new coronavirus cases and 904 deaths in the last 24 hours, the total tally in India rose to 19,64,537 and 40,699 deaths, the data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare revealed on Thursday.

Currently, 5,95,501 cases are active and 1,328,336 people have recovered from the disease. The recovery rate has reached a new high of 67.19 per cent. In the last 24 hours, 6,64,949 samples have been tested.

Six major states in India have recorded more than one lakh cases in the last six months since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Maharashtra has the highest number of cases, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Maharashtra remains the worst-hit state with 4,68,265 cases and 16,476 deaths. Tamil Nadu comes in second with 2,73,460 cases and 4,461 deaths.

On the other hand, with the deadly virus spreading rapidly all over the country, there are eight states and union territories – Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Ladakh, Mizoram, Arunanchal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Andaman and Nicobar Islands where there are less than 1,000 active cases.

In a press briefing earlier this week, Health Ministry Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said that 82 per cent of the total cases are limited to ten states and union territories and that fifty districts account for 66 per cent of the total caseload.

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Indian-origin scientists find novel way to treat severe Covid-19

The observational study included 255 Covid-19 patients being treated with IL6ri during stage IIB (149 patients) and stage III (106 patients) of the disease.



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New York, Aug 5 : A team of Indian-origin researchers has found that patients experiencing severe Covid-19 symptoms had improved outcomes when administered an Interleukin-6 (IL6ri) inhibitor, sarilumab or tocilizumab — used in treating autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other several inflammatory conditions.

The treatment was more effective when administered earlier in the disease course, reducing mortality rate and the need for intubation.

Published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the results showed that Interleukin-6 inhibitors appear to be a more effective treatment method as compared to other options, including remedesvir and dexamethasone, which are recommended and are being currently used to check the pandemic.

“At a time when treatments are being tested with urgency amid the Covid-19 pandemic, our study results offer some hope towards finding solutions to better treat patients infected by this disease,” said study researcher Manish Sagar from the Boston University in the US.

According to the study, elevated IL-6 levels may mediate the severe systemic inflammatory responses that occur in patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome or Covid-19 infection.

The observational study included 255 Covid-19 patients being treated with IL6ri during stage IIB (149 patients) and stage III (106 patients) of the disease.

Once an appropriate patient was identified, he/she was given IL6ri (sarilumab or tocilizumab) based on iteratively reviewed guidelines.

The IL6ri was initially reserved for critically-ill patients, but after review, the treatment was liberalised for patients with lower oxygen requirements.

The IL6ri recipients had considerably higher supplementary oxygen requirements, indicating more advanced disease than patients in previous remdesivir and dexamethasone trials, and would have been expected to have a higher mortality rate.

The study’s sampling-with-replacement analysis found that the patients who received IL6ri had a lower mortality rate than patients in the intervention and control groups of remdesivir and dexamethasone trials.

The 22.9 per cent mortality rate for the 105 Boston Medical Center patients that required ICU care (41.1 per cent) was considerably lower than previously published 45-50 per cent mortality in other ICU studies.

“The greatest benefit of IL6ri use was seen in patients who received the drug in an earlier stage, prior to critical respiratory decompensation, showing the importance of prompt testing and treatment,” said study researcher Pranay Sinha.

“We hope these findings can help guide physicians as we seek solutions to reduce mortality, increase extubation, reduce the length of stay in the hospital, and have more patients discharged from the hospital alive,” Sinha added.

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Zenara Pharma gets approval to manufacture, sell Favipiravir



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Hyderabad, Aug 5 : Hyderabad-based Zenara Pharma on Wednesday announced that it has received approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to manufacture and sell Favipiravir tablets as a treatment option for patients with mild to moderate symptoms of Covid-19.

The tablet, which will be sold under the brand name ‘Favizen’, is being manufactured at Zenara’s US FDA approved state-of-the-art facility in Hyderabad.

Zenara Pharma, a fully-owned subsidiary of Biophore India Pharmaceuticals, is in talks with multiple state institutions and several hospitals in India to ensure that Favizen is readily available for the patients in need.

“Given the ongoing pandemic, it has become extremely critical for pharmaceutical companies to quickly provide safe and effective treatment options to the patients with Covid-19. I am proud to say that we have our own in-house API and are not dependent on any imports for the production.

“We believe that this will ensure stability and rapid production and availability of this treatment for the Indian market. We are also in talks with various institutions to make the tablets available at discounted or no cost to underprivileged patients,” said Jagadeesh Babu Rangisetty, Co-founder and Managing Director, Zenara Pharma.

The company said that it has the manufacturing and distribution capabilities to improve access to this treatment around the world and has already begun exports to the Middle East and Latin American countries.

Favipiravir has demonstrated positive clinical outcomes in some trials and has already been approved for use to treat Covid-19 in Russia and parts of the Middle East. Advance stage trials are currently underway in several countries, including India.

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