Cadila seeks nod to repurpose Hepatitis C drug for COVID-19 in India

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker collects a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test swab sample from a man as others watch, at a temporary shelter for the homeless in New Delhi, India, March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

BENGALURU (Reuters) - India’s Cadila Healthcare Ltd has sought approval from local regulators to use a Hepatitis C drug as a treatment for COVID-19 following promising interim results from a late-stage trial, the drugmaker said on Monday.

A single dose of the Hepatitis C drug when taken early could help COVID-19 patients recover faster and avoid complications seen in the advanced stages of the disease, Cadila said in a statement to stock exchanges.

About 91% of patients treated with the drug tested negative for COVID-19 in standard RT-PCR tests by day seven, compared to nearly 79% who were given the standard of care, the company said citing Phase-III clinical trial data.

The drug, known as Pegylated Interferon alpha-2b and branded as ‘PegiHep’ by Cadila, was originally approved for liver disease Hepatitis C and launched in India 10 years ago. It is being repurposed to treat COVID-19.

The news comes as daily coronavirus infections are surging to new highs in India, which has the world’s third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil. India has so far reported close to 12.5 million infections and more than 164,000 deaths.

Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Subhranshu Sahu