Two pharmaceutical companies in India have signed deals with American biopharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences for the sale of remdesivir, according to media reports. The antiviral drug was approved by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration earlier this month as a treatment for patients severely ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The pharmaceutical firms – Jubilant Life Sciences and Hetero – signed a non-exclusive licencing agreement for selling remdesivir in 127 countries, including India. As per the agreement, companies will also get the rights to manufacture the drug and scale up production in nearly all low-income and middle-income countries, as well as some high-income nations, Reuters reported.

Jubilant Life Sciences said it will have the right to receive a technology transfer of the Gilead manufacturing process to scale up production, according to the Hindustan Times. This will expedite access to the medicine for Covid-19 patients once the regulatory authorities in respective countries approve it.

“We are happy to strengthen our partnership with Gilead to license remdesivir, which, based on initial data, shows promise to be a potential therapy for Covid-19, a pandemic creating unprecedented health and economic crisis globally,” company chairperson Shyam S Bhartia told the newspaper. Hari S Bhartia, company’s co-chairperson and managing director, said Jubilant Life Science will be monitoring the clinical trials of the drug and its regulatory approvals very closely and would launch the drug for use only after that.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical company Hetero announced that remdesivir will be manufactured at its formulation facility in Hyderabad, according to The Hindu. The facility has been approved by regulators such as the US Food and Drug Administration.

B Partha Saradhi Reddy, company chairperson, told the newspaper that Hetero has developed a “fully vertically integrated supply chain for the product”. The company was working with the government, the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Drug Controller General of India for necessary studies and approvals to make the drug available for treatment of coronavirus patients, he added.

United States had authorised remdesivir – designed to treat both hepatitis and a common respiratory virus – under emergency use provisions, after a clinical trial demonstrated some improvements among severely ill patients. President Donald Trump had hailed the drug as a “very promising” one. However, there are only some reports on the drug being able to help Covid-19 patients.

Gilead said it is also negotiating long-term licences with several generic drugmakers in India and Pakistan to produce remdesivir for developing countries. However, the Medecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, criticised Gilead for the “lack of transparency” on the terms of the agreement. “We believe that instead of business as usual, such agreements should be made public and licences have to be global including all countries – low, middle and high income,” Leena Menghaney, South Asia head for MSF’s Access Campaign, told Reuters.

Covid-19 has infected more than 42.59 lakh people globally and claimed 2.91 lakh lives, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.