Zydus Cadila on Monday said it could soon start a trial to see the effectiveness of pegylated interferon alpha-2b as a treatment for Covid-19, joining the global effort to find a way to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.
Ahmedabad-based Zydus has initiated talks with the Department of Biotechnology for a compassionate trial. It is also working with the USFDA to register the drug for “compassionate use programme”. The company has already registered the drug with the Indian drug controller for a trial approval.
The company will be using its own brand ‘PegiHep’, which is currently used for treatment of Hepatitis B and C. The World Health Organization also lists the drug as one of the possible treatments for Covid-19. “Currently, we are looking to enrol 80-100 patients with mild to moderate symptoms, and then, depending on good, results we will scale it up,” Sharvil Patel, managing director at Zydus Cadila , told ET.
The drug has shown positive results in the laboratory. Also, non-peer reviewed research site medRxiv says a trial showed evidence of a direct anti-viral effect of Interferon alpha against SARS-Cov-2.
Interferons are the first line of defence against a viral attack. Interferon alpha is one such molecule that slows down viral replication, but also activates the immune system to take on the attack. Interferons, through a pharmaceutical process called ‘pegylation’, are made more effective where it remains in the body system for a longer time.