Indian pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila on Friday announced that it has received approval from the Drug Controller General of India for emergency use of its anti-viral drug Virafin for treating moderate Covid-19 cases.

“The fact that we are able to offer a therapy which significantly reduces viral load when given early on can help in better disease management,” Cadila Managing Director Sharvil Patel told News18. “It comes at a much-needed time for patients.”

Virafin was earlier used for liver disease Hepatitis C and was launched in the country a decade ago, according to News18. “A single dose of the antiviral Virafin administered subcutaneously early on shows significant clinical and virological improvement in moderate Covid-19 adult patients,” the drug firm said, adding that “91.15% of patients treated with PegIFN [Pegylated Interferon] were RT-PCR negative by day 7.”

Zydus Cadila said the treatment significantly reduces the “hours of supplemental oxygen in the patients”. If administered early on, Virafin is expected to help Covid-19 patients recover faster and avoid several complications, the company said.

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Also read: ‘Remdesivir doesn’t save lives – but desperate families demand that doctors prescribe it’

The pharmaceutical company also said that Virafin will be available with prescriptions of a medical specialist for use in hospital and institutional setups, reported India Today.

In the trials held in 20 to 25 centers across the country, Virafin showed lesser need for supplemental oxygen in coronavirus patients, showing that it was able to control respiratory distress and failure – one of the major impediments in treating Covid-19. Virafin has also showed efficacy against other viral infections.

The phase three clinical trials of the drug showed that Covid-19 patients who received it showed significant improvement on the eighth day as compared to the current treatment.

The clinical drug trials of Virafin also reportedly found that signs and symptoms of Covid-19 patients stayed for five days when compared to six days for patients treated using existing treatments, according to India Today.

Another anti-viral drug used in the country to treat critical Covid-19 is remdesivir, even though medical opinion about its effectiveness has been mixed. Experts have warned that it’s no “silver bullet”. The World Health Organization had in November issued a conditional recommendation against the use of remdesivir in hospitalised patients, saying there was no evidence that the drug improved survival and other outcomes.

But in the absence of any proven drug, doctors are increasingly prescribing it in India, driving its demand across the country. In recent weeks, social media has been flooded with desperate pleas to find access to remdesivir. The shortage of supply is also leading to the black-marketing of the drug.

On Monday, the health ministry had also said that remdesivir is not a life-saving drug and that its “unnecessary or irrational” use on Covid-19 patients is unethical.

However, keeping in mind the huge demand for the drug, the government had last week decided to ramp up its production and cut down the price. On Tuesday, the Centre waived import duty on remdesivir amid the massive surge in cases in India. Raw materials needed to manufacture the drug will also be exempted from the tax.

India on Friday registered another global high of 3,32,730 coronavirus cases, pushing the infection tally in the country to 1,62,63,695 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The country also registered its highest toll at 2,263. With this, the total number of fatalities climbed to 1,86,920.