Glenmark Pharmaceuticals sees potential of NONS to prevent Covid-19
Glenmark Pharmaceuticals plans to test its upcoming nitric oxide nasal spray (NONS) that it has licensed from a Canadian Biotech firm as a preventive measure for Covid-19. The firm, which has tasted success with its oral antiviral drug favipiravir, is now betting on the NONS to drive revenues from its Covid-19 portfolio. In the first quarter, Covid-19 revenues were a tad less than 10 per cent of Glenmark’s turnover. Favipiravir alone sold for around Rs 350 crore, boosting its India business by 57 per cent year-on-year (YoY). What’s more? Fabiflu (Glenmark’s brand of favipiravir) enjoys margins of 35 per cent, according to analysts.
Glenmark has tied up with Canadian biotech firm SaNOtize to manufacture, market, and distribute its NONS for Covid-19 treatment in India and other Asian markets. Glenmark aims to launch the NONS under the brand Fabispray in the second half of the 2021-22 financial year.
The regulator has allowed Glenmark to start phase 3 trials of the product with conditions that anyone vaccinated with Covid-19 should be excluded from the disease. Glenn Saldanha, managing director and chief executive of Glenmark, said a major clinical trial by SaNOtize was being conducted in Canada over 4000 people to see if this drug also works in the prevention of Covid-19. “If the trial shows that this works in prevention, then there are several uses of this. As such, nitric oxide, which is also produced by the body, is safe. With offices, schools, colleges, and local trains resuming, there would be wide and frequent use of the nasal spray,” Saldanha said. In India, Glenmark is testing the drug on Covid patients to see what impact it has on treatment. The trials are thus on mild Covid positive patients.
Saldanha is hopeful that data from the large Canadian trial may also prove helpful to show that this drug has preventive properties. “We can leverage the data from the Canadian trial,” he said. NONS is designed to kill coronavirus in the upper airways, preventing it from incubating and spreading to the lungs. “It is based on nitric oxide, a natural nanomolecule with proven anti-microbial properties, and which has a direct effect on SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19,” a company spokesperson said. In March, SaNOtize’s clinical trials showed NONS was a safe and effective antiviral treatment that significantly reduced viral load in Covid-19 patients and reduced the severity of symptoms. “In the first 24 hours, NONS reduced the average viral load by around 95 per cent and then by more than 99 per cent within 72 hours. It has been tested in healthy volunteers and patients as part of the UK and Canada clinical trials,” the spokesperson claimed. NONS will also be priced lower in India compared to global benchmark pricing, Saldanha said, adding that they were already working on technology transfer from the Canadian firm to make the product here. “The initial doses will be imported and, eventually, we will make it here.” Covid-19 sales, however, are seasonal. With the cases on the decline, the demand for such acute therapy drugs, too, is on the wane. Glenmark, thus, has plans to launch new products in its key therapy areas — diabetes, cardio-vascular, respiratory, dermatology, and oncology.
At present, the respiratory segment, where the company has strong brands like Ascoril and Alex, contributes roughly 25-30 per cent to its turnover, while cardiovascular contributes another 25 per cent. The anti-diabetic segment contributes about 10-15 per cent and dermatology is another 30 per cent. Saldanha says there are plans to launch at least two new products in the anti-diabetic space soon, without breaking out further details.