Novartis CEO says malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is biggest hope against coronavirus, Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung says
Hydroxychloroquine is now getting a lot of attention from hospitals and pharmaceutical companies after many studies showed the drug to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Today, Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said that his Sandoz generics unit’s malaria, lupus and arthritis drug hydroxychloroquine is the company’s biggest hope against the coronavirus, according to a report from Reuters, citing Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung.
“Pre-clinical studies in animals as well as the first data from clinical studies show that hydroxychloroquine kills the coronavirus,” Narasimhan told the newspaper. “We’re working with Swiss hospitals on possible treatment protocols for the clinical use of the drug, but it’s too early to say anything definitively.”
The company has pledged to donate 130 million doses and is also supporting clinical trials needed before the medicine, which U.S. President Donald Trump also touted as a possible “game-changer” drug, can be approved for use against the coronavirus. Here in the U.S., health authorities have been cautious about the use of hydroxychloroquine and its sister drug chloroquine. Two weeks ago, FDA approved compassionate use of anti-malaria drug chloroquine for the treatment of coronavirus.
However, FDA said it is waiting for more studies to done before it approves the drug for general use. In an announcement last week, the FDA said: “The FDA added hydroxychloroquine sulfate to category 1 under the Interim Policy on Compounding Using Bulk Drug Substances Under Section 503B of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The FDA does not intend to object to registered outsourcing facilities using hydroxychloroquine (or chloroquine phosphate, which was already on category 1), to compound human drugs provided the drugs meet other conditions and requirements in the FD&C Act.”
In the meantime, other companies including Bayer and Teva have also agreed to donate hydroxychloroquine or similar drugs, while Gilead Sciences is testing its experimental drug remdesivir against coronavirus. Novartis International AG is a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland. The Sandoz brand is a division of the Novartis Group and a global leader in generic pharmaceuticals and biosimilars.