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.
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.