Scientists criticize use of unproven covid drugs in India
In India, which has the world’s second-largest COVID-19 outbreak, there is a desperate need for effective treatments. But researchers are concerned about how the country’s drug regulator is handling potential therapies. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved several repurposed drugs for ‘restricted emergency use’ for treating the disease, the first time it has used such powers. Yet scientists say it’s unclear on what basis the drugs were approved, and critics argue that the manufacturers’ data on their effectiveness is unconvincing so far.
“Transparency is even more important in the pandemic,” says Anant Bhan, a public-health researcher at Yenepoya University in Mangalore. “It’s a new virus where we don't have definitive treatments available.”
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Scientists are also concerned that the emergency authorizations are influencing other countries’ decisions. One of the drugs approved for COVID-19 in India is itolizumab, which is used to treat the autoimmune condition psoriasis. This has now been approved for emergency use in Cuba, partly on the basis of Indian data and approval, according to Cuban media. And Equillium, a biotech company based in La Jolla, California, which has a license to manufacturer itolizumab, received approval in the United States on 29 October to proceed with a large trial. Equillium’s filing to the US financial regulator notes that it was encouraged by India’s data and approval.