India's Hetero gets emergency use nod to make Roche's COVID-19 drug

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A sign at a diagnostics site for Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche is seen as the company said problems at a new warehouse delayed the dispatch of some products

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian drug developer Hetero said on Monday it has received emergency use approval from the country's health authorities to make a generic version of Roche Holding AG's COVID-19 drug.

Hetero expects to make the treatment, tocilizumab, available in India by the end of the month under the brand name Tocira. Tocilizumab has been facing a global shortage as the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant drives up cases in several countries.

COVID-19 cases in India have declined from levels hit during the second wave in April and May, although health experts believe that the country should brace for a third wave by October.

Roche's blockbuster arthritis drug, tocilizumab, cuts the risk of death among patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19 along with shortening the recovery time and reducing the need for mechanical ventilation.

Tocira will be made by Hetero's unit at its Hyderabad facility.

Hetero, which makes COVID-19 treatments like remdesivir and favipiravir, had also sought emergency approval for Merck's COVID-19 drug molnupiravir in July.

(Reporting by Shivani Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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