WHO calls for price cut on drug for Covid-linked black fungus

London: Amid a sharp rise in cases of black fungus infections among Covid-19 patients in India and Nepal, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has on Thursday called on to lower the prices of the drug used to treat the condition, media reports said.

Developed by California-based drugmaker Gilead Sciences, AmBisome is a lipid-based amphotericin, used to treat the black fungus infections, which starts in the nose and quickly spreads to the eyes and brain. The WHO has urged the company to lower its prices as well as boost supplies to curb the rapidly rising cases in South Asia, the Financial Times reported.

“An immediate strategy for broadening supply and improving affordability of lipid-based amphotericin is to integrate it into the existing Covid-19 response and for Gilead to extend their existing lower pricing arrangement to Covid patients,” Who’s Assistant Director General for access to medicines, Mariangela Simao, was quoted as saying.

Last month, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and experts at Yale and Georgetown universities in the US had sent an open letter sent to Gilead stating that the it takes between 150 and 300 vials of the drug to treat a single patient, and a vial can cost up to $69 in India.

Gilead told the FT that in India the price of the drug and the terms of supply are negotiated by the US company Viatris, which stated the drug was “complex” and “involves an exceptionally long cycle time to produce” and it is even more critical due to the sudden rise in demand”.

“We will continue to partner with all stakeholders and the government of India for the ongoing efforts to accelerate access to critical medicines for patients with Covid-19 in India,” Viatris was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, in May, Zydus and TLC, a specialty pharmaceutical company in Taiwan, signed a license supply and commercialisation agreement to commercialise AmphoTLC (Amphotericin B Liposome for Injection 50mg) in India.

AmphoTLC is the first and only complex generic drug to have achieved bioequivalence to Gilead’s AmBisome, proving its sameness to the safest form of amphotericin B in the world.

With the surge of infections in India, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) of India also granted approval to Amphotericin B Liposome for Injection 50mg or AmphoTLC for immediate importation as per approved usage and indication.