Saturday 19 June 2021
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DRDO repurposes cancer drug for Covid-19 treatment

The DRDO lab-developed drug accumulates in the virus-infected cells, preventing virus growth by stopping viral synthesis and energy production

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved of the revised use of a potential cancer drug — 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) — repurposed for emergency treatment of Covid-19 by way of an adjunct therapy for hospitalised, moderate-to-severe patients. The Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory, developed the anti-Covid-19 therapeutic application of the drug in collaboration with pharmaceutical company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories.

The drug, which comes in a sachet in powder form, has to be administered orally by dissolving it in water. The drug works by accumulating in the virus-infected cells and prevents virus growth by stopping viral synthesis and energy production.

“Its selective accumulation in virally infected cells makes this drug unique. A higher proportion of patients treated with 2-DG showed RT-PCR negative conversion in Covid-19 patients,” INMAS-DRDO said.

According to INMAS-DRDO, the clinical trial results showed that the molecule helps in faster recovery of hospitalised patients and reduces their dependence on supplemental oxygen.

“In the ongoing 2nd wave of the pandemic, a large number of patients are facing severe oxygen dependency and need hospitalization. This drug is expected to save precious lives due to the mechanism of operation of the drug in infected cells. As it reduces the hospital stay of Covid-19 patients, it will also help reduce the burden on the country’s health infrastructure,” it explained.

Being a generic molecule and analogue of glucose, it can be easily produced and made available in plenty in the country, INMAS-DRDO added.

Research into repurposing the drug for Covid-19 was started by INMAS-DRDO scientists in April 2020, during the first wave of pandemic, and laboratory experiments were conducted with the help of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.

The Phase-II trials conducted on 110 patients in 17 hospitals found that patients using the drug showed a faster recovery and a 2.5 days difference in terms of the median time for achieving normalization of certain vital parametres as compared to standard of care (SoC).

The Phase III clinical trial showed that a significantly higher proportion of patients that took the drug improved symptomatically and became free from supplemental oxygen dependence (42% vs 31%) by Day-3 in comparison to SoC, indicating an early relief from oxygen dependence.

The Phase III study was conducted on 220 patients during December 2020 to March 2021 period at 27 Covid hospitals in states like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

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