India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and its underlying Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) recently led an intense effort, along with other research centers and sponsors around the country, to study various repurposed drugs during this horrific wave of the pandemic in India. The participation in studies has skyrocketed with such research as a care option, while three repurposed drugs have surfaced exhibiting promise including Niclosamide, Colchicine and Chlorpromazine. With extensive experience developing studies involving Favipiravir and Remdesivir in association with COVID-19 treatment, the elite research center in India also investigates indigenous pharmaceutical companies for other antivirals. CSIR-IICT’s director S. Chandrasekhar shared that the institute may consider a “non-exclusive license to the processes we develop so that drugs are available in quantities at affordable cost.” With concern about the actual shelf life for both Remdesivir and Favipiravir, the research center clearly is now considering other repurposed agents, including one that showed good results in the United States—Colchicine. Another drug is one that a Danish biotech venture called UNION Therapeutics also investigates. While the country’s condition improved for several months, generic drug companies here reduced production lines but with the recent spike comes intense, emergency demand.
In addition to findings in India, a Danish biotech called UNION demonstrates that a drug called niclosamide in the anthelmintic family of medications (like ivermectin) demonstrates safety and efficacy against COVID-19.
Niclosamide is sold under the trade name Niclocide as well as others and is a medication to treat parasites such as tapeworm. The orally administered drug can produce some side effects (vomiting, abdominal pain and itchiness). Like ivermectin, the drug is in the anthelmintic family of medications. Discovered in 1958, it is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines and is not commercially available in America.
Recently, a Danish biotech venture known as UNION recently reported that result of the company’s Phase 1 study of inhaled and intranasal niclosamide (UNI911) was published by The Lancet Regional Health—Europe and revealed in a strong safety profile and importantly, the drug met study endpoints.
CSIR-IICT also shared with the world that Colchicine shows promise. TrialSite reported on the COLCORNA study in the United States and Canada, evidencing potential with this generic drug used for gout. As Trialsite reported, the Montreal Heart Institute-led study revealed colchicine reduced by 21% the risk of death or hospitalization in patients with COVID-19 as compared to placebo. This large study included 4,488 patients approaching statistical significance. The analysis of 4,159 patients in who the diagnosis of COVID-19 was proven by a nasopharyngeal PCR test has shown that the use of colchicine was associated with statistically significant reductions in the risk of death or hospitalization compared to placebo. In these patients with a proven diagnosis of COVID-19, colchicine reduced hospitalizations by 25%, the need for mechanical ventilation by 50%, and deaths by 44%.
Finally, Chlorpromazine is an antipsychotic medication used to treat mental illness, behavior disorders, tetanus, blood disorders such as porphyria and severe nausea and vomiting. The drug is also known as Thorazine.
Of course, fluvoxamine has demonstrated strong data targeting COVID-19 as has ivermectin, which is used in some parts of India.
Recently reported in The Hindu, IICT is known to augment drug development efforts in India. For example, it played an important role developing a vital adjuvant for Indian biotech and vaccine maker Bharat Biotech, helping ensure Covaxin was available in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology.
Established in 1944, CSIR-IICT conducts research in basic and applied chemistry, biochemistry, bioinformatics and chemical engineering and provides science and technology inputs to the industrial and economic development of India. The organization is an active filer of patents.
Call to Action: The Hindu recently covered some of this news as well.