Three pharmaceuticals companies in Bangladesh have started experimental production of COVID-19 drug, remdesivir.
The three companies are: Eskayef Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Incepta Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
Among the three pharmaceuticals companies, Eskayef and Beximco have submitted the samples of the drug to the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA)
Eskayef submitted its samples of remdesivir to the DGDA on Saturday while Beximco submitted it on Wednesday, said Ruhul Amin, a director of DGDA.
The companies will be permitted to market the drug if everything is fine, he said. “They have to apply for authorisation for marketing the drug if the test results are satisfactory.”
The DGDA has permitted five other companies to produce the drug and they are Square, Beacon, Healthcare, Popular and Opsonin, Ruhul Amin said.
A bdnews24.com report citing Reuters says, a single dose of remdesivir will be priced at Tk 5,500, according to officials of the DGDA and the pharmaceutical companies. An adult patient may need up to 12 doses on doctor’s advice.
The companies can initially supply the drug to the hospitals that have been permitted to treat COVID-19. It will not be available in pharmacies.
The company can market the product once it passes the test. Officials hope to start supplying the drug by the end of May.
Amin said the three companies that went into production had raw materials for the drug while the others are trying hard to get these.
The experimental drug developed by Gilead Sciences that failed to cure Ebola is now being touted as the best shot against COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The latest data on the drug showed that it reduced the time of recovery of COVID-19 patients.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved remdesivir for emergency use in COVID-19 patients — becoming the first medication backed by early clinical data to be made available to fight the novel coronavirus.
Mohammad Mujahidul Islam, director of Eskayef's marketing and sales department, thinks they can start distribution soon after getting the final clearance.
Beximco Pharmaceuticals Chief Operating Officer Rabbur Reza also said they were expecting to start marketing remdesivir in May.
“We will supply it in Bangladesh first. We’ll need to know how many doses Bangladesh needs.”
He also said the pricing would not affect patients because the government will cover the costs.
“We will supply the government either for free or at a very reasonable price. When the government’s need ends, we will start supplying it to the market. We will try to offer the lowest price in the world,” he added.
Incepta Pharmaceuticals Chairman and Managing Director Abdul Muktadir was looking to begin the distribution in two weeks.
“We are still experimenting,” he said.
Remdesivir’s potential to help COVID-19 patients is based on the ability to disable the mechanism by which certain viruses, including the new coronavirus, replicate themselves and potentially overwhelm their host's immune system, according to a Reuters report.
Data from a trial by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States showed remdesivir reduced hospitalisation stays by 31 per cent compared to a placebo treatment, but did not significantly improve survival.
Gilead's patent on remdesivir in theory means it has exclusive rights to make it, but international trade rules allow nations defined by the United Nations as least-developed countries, including Bangladesh, to ignore such patents and make drugs more affordable in those markets, the Reuters reported.
Beximco’s Reza had earlier said that Bangladesh would be allowed to export the drug to other least-developed countries and some European countries have also written to Beximco seeking to import the drug.