New Delhi, February 23 – India is now capable of indigenously producing shikimic acid – the most vital ingredient used to make Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) – an antiviral drug used in the treatment of H1N1 (swine flu).
With the deadly H1N1 now a global pandemic, nations across the world have started to stockpile millions of doses of Tamilfu, the only known drug that fights H1N1 infection. In India, swine flu has already claimed 800 lives and afflicted over 13,000 people in this year only.
Department of Health Research (DHR) under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had undertaken a project in 2010 to produce the compound, which is now successful. “They initiated steps to produce the compound in India by exploring all options.
Four projects were funded at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), University of Delhi, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Mohali and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) -National Chemical Laboratory, Pune,” said Dr V. M. Katoch, Secretary of DHR and Director-General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
At present, Tamiflu is the world’s most wanted medical compound. “Initially, we started three projects at different laboratories. Gradually, we attained success and we are now capable of producing the compound In India.
We have come up with new indigenous processes of shikimic acid production for large-scale validation. Commercial production of the drug is being looked at also,” said Dr Katoch.
Shikimic acid, commonly known as its anionic form shikimate, is a cyclohexene, a cyclitol and a cyclohexanecarboxylic acid. In the pharmaceutical industry, shikimic acid is derived from the Chinese star anise (Illicium verum), an ancient cooking spice; the herb is also used in traditional Chinese medicine.
This fruit yields 3-7 per cent of its weight as the acid, which is further synthesised into crystals to be useful as a tablet. It is used as a base ingredient for production of Tamiflu.
Shikimic acid is converted in Diethyle Ketal intermediate, which is then reduced in two steps to an epoxide that is finally transformed into Tamiflu. Indian scientists, however, have identified some trees in the Western Ghats that produce shikimic acid.
A considerable quantity can be drawn from the leaves of these trees, doctors say. Meanwhile, the Centre has already asked the state drug controllers to ensure that chemist shops display prominently availability of medicines for its treatment.
A communication to this effect has been sent by Drug Controller General of India G.N. Singh to drug controllers of all states and UTs.
Swine flu claimed 38 more lives in the country taking the toll to 812 with Rajasthan and Gujarat among the worst-hit states with 212 and 207 fatalities. According to health ministry data released on Sunday, the total number of deaths due to the disease has now reached 812 while 13,688 people have been affected with the H1N1 virus across the country.
Health ministry officials on Saturday said the number of people affected by swine flu was 12,963 while deaths caused by the infection was 774 as per figures available till February 20.
Seven more persons succumbed to swine flu in Rajasthan. Out of 4,318 patients, who tested positive for the HINI virus, 212 have died since January 1, an official of Medical and Health Directorate (MHD) said in Jaipur.
In Gujarat, 10 more people died of the disease taking the toll to 207, according to an official release. In Maharashtra, 99 people have lost their lives with seven more deaths being reported in the state, according to Public Health Minister Dr Deepak Sawant.
In J&K, one more patient died of swine flu, taking the toll to five, while 119 have tested positive, officials said. Three persons have died of swine flu in Uttarakhand this year.