Amid peaking of corona cases across India, the DRDO’s (Defence Research and Development Organisation) newly launched anti-COVID medicine, 2-deoxy-D-glucose is being hailed as an innovative holy grail for COVID patients in India right now, who are currently battling for their lives and scouring for oxygen amidst a deadly grasp of the second wave of infections.
The innovative therapeutic drug, which has been launched for use today (May 17) is also said to hasten recovery timelines. But how effective is it really? Can all COVID-19 patients take it? Here’s a brief explainer on the same.
What do we know about the drug, 2-deoxy-D-glucose?
2-deoxy-D-glucose is the first-ever ‘fully homegrown’ anti-COVID medicine which has been developed in India. According to researchers, it is one of the first therapeutic COVID-19 drugs which works to stop viral growth in the body, reduce the need for external oxygen.
The anti-COVID-drug, which is also referred to as ‘2DG’ has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s laboratory Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences, in collaboration with Hyderabad based medicine-maker, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories.
Over 10,000 doses of the drug are likely to be made available starting this week.
The 2DG drug, which went through extensive clinical trials was approved for use after the apex body, Drugs Controller General of India granted nods on May 01.
Right now, while there are no specific anti-COVID drugs available in India, or globally, medicines like Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, Steroid drugs, Ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine (until last year), Dexamethasone are being repurposed for use to tame the symptoms associated with the viral infection. However, their use, as well as availability has been brought to question in recent weeks. In a time like this, researchers believe that the 2-deoxy-D-glucose, therapeutic COVID drug offers much better use than the repurposed drugs.
H ow does it work in the treatment of COVID-19? How effective is it?
It should be noted that the medicine developed by DRDO is also a repurposed drug. However, clinical trials and research done so far have shown more effective results than other medicines used to treat COVID patients right now.
According to researchers, the drug, which was previously used to treat tumorous cancer cells contains the 2-DG molecule, which is a glucose analogue (i.e., not true glucose). The drug thus works by stopping the viral growth in the body upon infection/spread. Any virus needs glucose to survive and thrive. When the drug is injected into the body, it attaches itself to the virus and stops multiplication and further spread in the body, thereby working to control the complications and severity it can cause. Thus, in a unique manner, it works to tame down viral replication and energy synthesis.
Additionally, defence researchers, speaking to agencies have also said that the drug works in altering the body’s oxygen need when severe infection strikes. Since oxygen deprivation and demand fuel up when there’s a high viral spread in the body, the 2DG drug inhibits growth and reduces the body’s need for further oxygen as well.
As for the efficacy, extensive research has been carried out since last year. Clinical laboratory-based studies, as well as usage under hospitalized settings, have shown that the medicine showcased significant improvement in recovery timelines, achieved normalization of vital parameters in comparison to standards of care medicines (SoCs).
Trials were done on over 110 patients across Delhi, Maharastra, Telangana, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan also showed that the drug was able to curtail oxygen dependency by the 3rd day and may also reduce hospital stay considerably.
Does it work well against mutant strains and variants?
Mutant strains and variants of the virus are majorly responsible for the surge in cases right now, and may even fuel a future nationwide third virus wave. While there’s a crucial need for scaling up resources, researchers also believe that the application of this drug can majorly help patients in need, since it works against all mutant strains. According to Dr Anil Mishra, Director of the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences, the drug functions by arresting any variant as a multiplying virus and deprives it of ‘food’ (glucose) to multiply and grow in the body. Thus, the drug can be effective in most cases.
Pricing and dosage
The drug, which is being jointly manufactured by Dr Reddy’s Laboratories is yet to be assigned a price tag. However, the price will be kept with affordability in mind and the first 10,000 doses will be rolled out for us this week.
The 2DG medicine is to be taken orally, mixed in water 2 times a day. COVID-19 patients may be required to take this drug for 5-7 days to completely stop viral growth.
Can all COVID-19 patients use this medicine?
Right now, the drug has been recommended for use in moderate to severe COVID-19 cases only. Patients suffering from mild infections, recovering at home may not need the drug, and can easily recover at home following due protocols.
Do remember that like many, this still is an experimental drug that has been given emergency use nods. The incessant use of the medicine (or any other drug), hoarding supplies without getting a go-ahead from your treating doctor will only invite problems.
The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for physician’s advice. Please consult your treating physician for more details.