India's Cipla prices its generic remdesivir at $53.34 per vial, below rivals

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Cipla Ltd has priced its generic version of remdesivir, Cipremi, at 4,000 rupees ($53.34) per 100 mg vial, the Indian drugmaker said on Wednesday, making it among the lowest priced versions of the COVID-19 treatment available so far globally.

A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a swab from a man to test him for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a street in Ahmedabad, India, July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

Cipla had earlier said pricing would not exceed 5,000 rupees. On Tuesday, Sovereign Pharma, which is manufacturing and packaging the drug for Cipla, said it had dispatched the first batch.

Cipla India business chief executive officer and executive vice president Nikhil Chopra said in an emailed statement that the company was launching Cipremi commercially on Wednesday and aims to supply over 80,000 vials within the first month.

The drug will be available through the government and hospitals only, the company said.

Sources had told Reuters that the first batch of 10,000 vials had been printed with a price of 4,000 rupees, 800 rupees below the cheapest option, launched by European competitor Mylan this week.

Privately held Hetero Labs Ltd’s version, Covifor, costs 5,400 rupees per vial while Mylan prices Desrem at 4,800 rupees.

With coronavirus cases increasing, several more of the big India-based healthcare firms which make much of the world’s pharmaceuticals are expected to launch competing versions of remdesivir, the only major treatment so far approved for COVID-19.

Remdesivir’s developer, Gilead Sciences Inc, has priced the original version at $390 per 100 mg vial for wealthier nations while signing licensing deals with generic producers to make the treatment widely available.

India is now the third worst hit nation in the pandemic with 700,000 cases, behind the United States and Brazil.

An employee at Cipla, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the company would send Cipremi to stockists starting Thursday.

It was not immediately clear how many of Cipla’s vials would be required for a full treatment course. Gilead has said a patient would typically need six vials of remdesivir for a five-day course.

($1 = 74.9990 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee, Siddharth Cavale and Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Patrick Graham, Bernard Orr and Shounak Dasgupta