Coronavirus Drives Up Demand for Antiviral Drugs
The Chinese government has purchased hundreds of thousands of antiviral drugs Aralen and Kaletra and drug sales in online pharmacies have risen sharply in recent weeks. In Canada and the USA, demand for these drugs is also growing.
“The active ingredient of Aralen – chloroquine – is used to fight malaria and autoimmune diseases. It has been used for over 70 years and is considered safe”, said Lian Zexi, an employee of Guangzhou Medical University. Lian is the author of works on the spread of infectious diseases in China. According to him, Aralen is now actively used in China in the fight against coronavirus.
Researchers have found that this drug is effective in fighting COVID-19 in in vitro studies. At least 10 clinical trials are currently considering the potential use of this drug as an option to treat the new coronavirus.
Growing demand and urgent purchases
In China, the population affected by the epidemic started to purchase Aralen. Demand for the drug has also risen sharply in online pharmacies.
In Canada, sales of this medicine also began to grow from the end of January. Just then, the first rumors appeared that chloroquine could be used to treat coronavirus. Over the three weeks from January 28 to February 27, drug sales increased by 18% compared to the same period in 2019. February 13-19, the growth was 24%.
“Yes, the sales volume of Kaletra in our pharmacy has grown 8 times, compared to the same period last year,” said Riley Patterson, a health care specialist from My Canadian Pharmacy Online. “The demand for Aralen is also extremely high,” Riley added. “We didn’t even expect demand to grow that way. People place bulk orders. Last morning they sold the last 18 packages. We ordered more and are waiting from suppliers. We are not raising prices.”
There are approximately 30 drugs that work against the 2019-nCoV coronavirus. According to Riley, 12 of them are drugs that are used to treat HIV infection, in particular indinavir and saquinavir.
Riley believes that the above mentioned antiviral drugs are quite versatile and “of course, will work against the coronavirus, including the new coronavirus in Wuhan.”
The latest figures as the pandemic spreads
Coronavirus changed the situation with antivirals and sales began to grow. It is difficult to assess how much demand has grown. But there are several facts by which you can evaluate the growth of sales of antiviral drugs:
- The Chinese government has placed urgent orders for Aralen and antivirals. The government ordered 200 thousand packs of Aralen, 360 pills each, and 50 thousand packs of Kaletra. In reality, there may be more state purchases of the drug;
- Several Chinese companies have already announced an increase in production of chloroquine-based medicines. They announced that they will double drug production to a million tablets per day, which will increase production by four times;
- CSPC Ouyi said it had already shipped about 60,000 packs of antivirals to the province’s coronavirus victims;
- Two pharmacological companies that have not previously manufactured antiviral drugs have already announced that they will begin their production. However, they will need to obtain a license for this.
Questions related to efficiency
The first publications on the effectiveness of chloroquine against coronavirus began to appear in February when FDA reported that studies are under way to see if chloroquine can be effective in the treatment of COVID-19. They also added that the drug needed additional testing.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services included chloroquine (Aralen) in the list of drugs recommended for combating coronavirus.
The New York Times wrote that chloroquine (Aralen) was one of the 69 drugs that scientists are going to test.
By the say, scientists from Hong Kong said they had developed a vaccine against coronavirus but now it will take a lot of time to test it: animal tests can take several months, and human tests can take at least one more year.