Industry experts and observers opine that the demand for repurposed drugs are likely to continue for some time even after the COVID-19 vaccines come to the Indian market.
They point out that due to the large size of the population in the country and anticipated challenges associated with the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain it will take considerable time until the entire nation gets vaccinated.
Dr Hari Natarajan, Founder and Dr Karishma Shah, Director, Pronto Consult, commented, “Several organisations around the world have fast-tracked the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, and some drugs already are in phase III trials and some of them also have gone ahead with the results. But, Pronto Consult feels that even though vaccine comes in India and globally, the repurposed drugs would continue to be there till the time the entire population is vaccinated or there is some other drug that would take care of it. The cost of the vaccine would also prove to be a critical aspect for people to accept and use the vaccine. We also feel there would be some groups of people who would wait and would not be the first to take the vaccine unless they see the results and their effects.”
He continued, “Many research organisations are trying to find a cure and we would get the vaccine sooner or later, but until then the repurposed drugs would continue to be there. Pronto Consult estimates that the market value of the drugs that are been used in COVID-19 including remdesivir and others account to a minimum of Rs 2000- 2500 crores as on date spread across various companies. Therefore, unless we have the right Vaccine at the right time and right cost, the repurposed market would continue to continue way into 2021.”
Kaushik Desai, Pharma Consultant expressed, “Repurposed drugs have been found to be effective and are a lifeline for patients during this pandemic. They are drugs of choice for mild to moderate symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Although several vaccines are in advanced stages of development and likely to get emergency regulatory approval for its use in the next two to three months, it is not likely to reach the majority of patients very soon. Considering the economy of scale and the population of India, the vaccines will take its own course of time for everyone to get vaccinated. It is very difficult to put timelines for this objective. There are supply chain challenges too for the last mile delivery of vaccines which needs to be addressed on priority in the next few months. Considering the potential delay in the availability of the vaccine to the general public, repurposed drugs are the only treatment of choice for doctors. Hence, the demand for repurposed drugs will continue in the immediate future.”
Another industry expert emphasised that it will take a minimum of two years’ time to vaccinate the entire population in our country. Therefore, repurposed drugs have the market for the next three years. This market will go on diminishing as vaccination progresses. But, he also said, “We have seen the fate of HCQ and now remdesivir is to follow. Companies can’t be sure of the pathway for repurposed drugs. “
Kunal Dhamesha, Senior Healthcare analyst, Emkay Global Financial Services said, “COVID-19 vaccine will have a mixed impact on the pharma sector. Those having high exposure to COVID-19 treatments are expected to see a negative impact on their performance, while those who succeed in bringing a vaccine to the market will have a positive impact.”