New Delhi: As Glenmark Pharmaceuticals launched antiviral drug Favipiravir for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 cases, medical experts on Saturday cautioned against seeing it as a "magic bullet" to treat the deadly virus but said it will be helpful as it can be orally administered and reduce viral load.

They said the drug's real efficacy would be known in the coming months.

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals said it has launched antiviral drug Favipiravir, under the brand name FabiFlu, for the treatment of patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 at a price of about Rs 103 per tablet.

FabiFlu is the first oral Favipiravir-approved medication in India for the treatment of COVID-19, it said in a statement.

"This drug was already being used in Japan for influenza. They have been using it in COVID-19 patients also. Even China was using it and Russia had also given permission in May to use it. Antiviral drugs like Remdesivir and Favipiravir are not specific to COVID-19 but were being used for influenza," said Dr Vikas Maurya, director, Department of Pulmonology and Sleep Disorders, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh.

He said studies found that there was some benefit of Favipiravir in COVID-19 treatment and that is why it has now been launched in India as well.

Dr Maurya said with COVID-19 cases rising, the launching of the drug comes as a relief.

"It is not a magic bullet as it is not the only thing we have to give. This is not a specific drug made for COVID-19 and has been found to be useful, but how much it will be useful we will have to see. Real efficacy will be known when administered on a large scale," he told PTI.

"Best thing is that it is an oral drug, while Remdesiver is an intravenous drug. It (Favipiravir) can be even taken at home. So even if it is giving some benefit, it will be quite useful," Dr Maurya said.

Noted city-based lung surgeon Dr Arvind Kumar said he does not believe that any of these antiviral drugs like Remdisiver or Favipiravir will be game changers.

"If at all ''game changer'' can be used, it is for dexamethasone which has shown a significant reduction in mortality and is available cheaply," he said.

There are so many medications available and Favipiravir will also help some patients, added Dr Kumar, who works at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

The Favipiravir drug will be available as a 200 mg tablet at a maximum retail price of Rs 3,500 for a strip of 34 tablets, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals said.

It is a prescription-based medication with recommended dose being 1,800 mg twice on day one, followed by 800 mg twice daily up to day 14, it added.