Turkey’s “local and national” initiative to boost domestic production finds another niche amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A pharmaceuticals company endorsed by the government started manufacturing domestically developed synthesis of favipiravir, a drug found to be effective against the coronavirus based on early trials. Thus, the country will not have to rely on imports of the drug from China anymore.
Licensed by Health Ministry on July 10, the synthesis is the work of a team of researchers led by associate professor Mustafa Güzel from Istanbul Medipol University. The first batch of the production or 10,000 boxes, will be donated to the Health Ministry for its use at hospitals across Turkey. Güzel, who has 80 patents on his name in medicine development, returned to Turkey five years ago from the United States where he worked for pharmaceutical giants for years. “We worked day and night with my team for 40 days and succeeded (in producing favipiravir domestically),” Güzel told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Tuesday. “This is a Japanese-developed drug produced by China. Turkish firms have long been successful in manufacturing generic drugs but most firms import raw material for production. At a time of the pandemic, when imports are limited or canceled, you cannot produce it. So, for our generic drug, we synthesized the molecules and were able to produce raw material entirely with our own means. The cooperation between university, public sector and industry enabled this,” he said.
Güzel says a few drugs stood out among others for COVID-19 treatment and his team was already working on the synthesis of favipiravir before the pandemic. “The pandemic only accelerated our work. In forty days, we managed to produce the raw material of the drug in the laboratory. Now, we are able to produce at least 50 kilos of raw material in four days. This is a great accomplishment for Turkey,” he said.
Zeynep Atabay Taşkent, deputy chair of the board at Atabay Kimya, the firm which produces the local version of favipiravir, says they now plan to export the drug. “Some countries are open to raw material exports while others demand the final product. For instance, we plan to export raw materials of the drug to Brazil and rework the licensing for exports to the United States and European countries,” she said.
Favipiravir, also known as Avigan, has been shown to be effective in both reducing the duration of the coronavirus in patients and improving the condition of their lungs, its main point of attack.
According to the Ministry of Health, favipiravir brought from China is being used under a unique protocol in Turkey. Turkish doctors have discovered that early intubation extends the length of the disease while administering high-flow oxygen leads to more successful and faster treatment.
Recoveries near 200,000
Turkey's coronavirus death toll on Monday increased to 5,382 with 19 new fatalities, while recoveries neared 200,000 as 1,156 more patients recuperated from COVID-19.
Announcing the country's daily coronavirus figures on Twitter, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 1,008 new infections were found in 46,492 tests carried out in the past 24 hours, bringing the country's total number of coronavirus cases to 214,001.
Meanwhile, the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 increased to 195,671 with 1,156 patients declared free of the coronavirus over the past day.
Warning citizens to not to grow lax in following precautions, the minister said Istanbul continued to be among the cities with most infections.
"Compared to our case numbers last week, we are determined to go below 1,000 daily new infections. Every day is a new test against COVID-19," the minister wrote.
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