COVID-19 and botanical spray: MGC Pharma on distributing clinically-backed formula in India and South East Asia

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The Artemisia plant. ©Getty Images
The Artemisia plant. ©Getty Images

Related tags COVID-19 India South east asia

MGC Pharma is working on introducing its product that has shown to speed up recovery in COVID-19 patients, as a natural health or ayurvedic product in several Asian countries, including India, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand.

ArtemiC is an oral spray made up of artemisinin, curcumin, vitamin C, and Boswellia serrata, and could serve as an adjunctive to the standard COVID-19 treatment.

It has been tested on 50 COVID-19 patients in India and Israel.

Results​ from the double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial showed that ArtemiC could reduce the severity of COVID-19.

None in the intervention group required additional oxygen, mechanism ventilation or admission to the ICU, while this was the case for 23.4 per cent of the patients in the placebo group. 

The ASX-listed company is working with global distribution partner Swiss PharmaCan AG in distributing the product worldwide.

At the moment, ArtemiC is not yet available for sale in Asia Pacific.

However, it has been approved for sale as a food supplement in Malaysia, and the company is in touch with several major pharmacy groups in selling the product, Ron Lipsky, vice-president, Business Development and International Relations at MGC Pharma told NutraIngredients-Asia.

In addition, the company is in talks with Myanmar, as well as government pharmaceutical office (GPO) and private organisations in Thailand about product distribution. 

As for India, which is currently in a dire straits due to the spread of the pandemic, he revealed that the firm has been receiving queries from the country daily. This has put greater pressure on the firm to scale up its manufacturing rapidly to live up to the anticipated demand, he said. 

"The plan for india is to find a way to help. Multiple conversations are going on and we will begin manufacturing to keep up with the orders as they arrive," ​he said. 

According to managing director and CEO Roby Zomer, one of the retail strategies is to work with clinics conducting COVID-19 swab test and distribute an emergency kit containing ArtemiC to all who are taking the test. 

“We are working with our global distributor, Swiss PharmaCan [in distributing ArtemiC] to clinics that are conducting COVID-19 tests and for each person going through the test to have some kind of rescue kit or an emergency kit.

“If one has got COVID-19 tested and identified as positive, its better for one to take ArtemiC to reduce the risk of the cytokine storms from happening.”

Other plans include distributing the products in supplement, health shops and Ayurveda clinics. 

At the moment, the product can be shipped globally from Slovenia - the country of product manufacturing. It is also distributed in Switzerland.

Zomer said sales of the product has been performing better than expected.

“By sales number, we are increasing every week, the acceptance of the product is high,”​ he said.

He revealed that 60,000 units of the product were sold in the first month of sales. This has exceeded the initial expectation of selling 40,000 units in three months.

Under a three-year master agreement, Swiss PharmaCan is required to order a minimum quantity of 40,000 wholesale units per quarter.

On top of that, the company further received a wholesale purchase order of AUD$1m from Swiss PharmaCan, it announced on May 4.

In addition, its North American distribution partner, Glow LifeTech, has submitted an application to Health Canada to obtain product licenses for ArtemiC as a Natural Health Product.

ArtemiC Support

ArtemiC Rescue
ArtemiC Rescue

There are two versions to ArtemiC, known as ArtemiC Rescue and ArtemiC Support.

ArtemiC Rescue is meant to be an adjunctive to COVID-19 treatment, while ArtemiC Support contains no artemisinin and is meant to be a daily supplement.  

ArtemiC Rescue has been approved for sale as a food supplement in Malaysia. 

ArtemiC support
ArtemiC Support

“Artemisinin is one of the catalysts that helps the ArtemiC formula to be more effective, not just in preventing cytokine storm, but also in reducing them once they appear…ArtemiC Rescue is currently the main product in targeting COVID-19 symptoms.

“[However], there are some restrictions in the use of artemisinin in some territories, which is why we are going through the different registration pathways such as the Natural Health Product [as seen in Canada].”

“On the other hand, curcumin and Boswellia are food ingredients which have no regulatory restrictions and can be provided without limitation globally,” ​Zomer said, which is why ArtemiC Support has been developed.

As the product also contains curcumin and Boswellia serrata, ​it could serve as a daily supplement for anti-inflammation benefits.

New findings

New preclinical results showed that ArtemiC could address the problem of cytokine overproduction in COVID-19 patients.

The preclinical trial showed that ArtemiC could decrease inflammation markers, such as IFN-g, IL-1a, and TNF-alpha, in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) of mice experiencing cytokine storm related to COVID-19.

“ArtemiC is agnostic to the source of cytokine storm from the virus perspective. It is agnostic to the COVID-19 virus and it doesn’t matter if the patient is down with the Indian or Brazilian or European variant.

“The mechanism of action lies in the reduction of the cytokine storm to prevent the escalation of the disease,” ​Zomer said.

Future study will involve developing ArtemiC into a medicine trademarked CimetrA. The company has started clinical development program for CimetrA as an Investigational Medicinal Product.

Further research will also be conducted to explore the impact of ArtemiC for other infectious, inflammatory diseases such as influenza and pneumonia.

“First of all, the research is to explore the other mechanisms [of ArtemiC] in our body, as there are many inflammatory diseases, such as pneumonia, that require immunomodulation.

“At the end of the day, it will be a combination of vaccine and treatment that will allow global humanity to go back to normality and to live with the COVID-19.

“But as a pharmaceutical company, we need to think of thereafter and many more different indications that we are looking to treat and support with this formula, and therefore, we will continue to research.”

There are also plans to work with hospitals in severely affected countries such as India, Brazil, Latin America, and even Indonesia and Malaysia in conducting human clinical trials using ArtemiC Rescue.  

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