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Bangladesh pharma giant to sell first generic version of remdesivir for Covid-19

Khaleej Times 2020-05-23 06:06:04

One of Bangladesh's largest drug-makers, Beximco Pharmaceuticals, says it has become the world's first company to start selling the generic version of Gilead Sciences Inc.'s anti-viral drug, remdesivir, which has shown promise in fighting the new coronavirus.

The Dhaka-based Beximco, which counts Norges Bank as one of its investors, will sell remdesivir for about 6,000 taka (Dh261) a vial to private clinics but will give it free to state-run hospitals treating Covid-19 patients, it was confirmed on Friday.

Drug being branded as bemsivir

Beximco is branding the drug bemsivir, the launch of which was announced during a simple ceremony at the Health Ministry in the presence of Zahid Maleque MP, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.

While handing over the first batch of medicine, Managing Director of Beximco Pharma, Nazmul Hassan MP, said: "We have decided to provide bemsivir free of cost to all those severely ill patients of government hospitals."

U.S. drug authorities granted emergency use authorisation at the end of April, paving the way for its broader use in U.S. hospitals, after Gilead provided data showing the drug had helped Covid-19 patients.

Beximco says the drug can be given via intravenous infusion. Beximco's Chief Operating Officer Rabbur Reza told Reuters that a patient might need anywhere between 5 and 11 vials.

US-authorised drug shows promise in clinical trials

Recent clinical trials have shown evidence that remdesivir helps severe Covid-19 patients recover faster.

The Japan government has also granted special approval for remdesivir in emergency treatment of Covid-19. 

The emergency approvals will help broaden use of remdesivir in hospitalised patients, especially in developing and less-developed countries where access to breakthrough, advanced drugs remains a major challenge, added the Beximco Pharma MD.

"We are pleased to be the first generic company in the world to introduce this very important drug for treating the hospitalised Covid-19 patients. This reinforces our commitment to playing our part in ensuring access to breakthrough therapies despite facing many challenges amid this unprecedented pandemic.

"We express our gratitude to the regulatory authorities for extending their wholehearted support for making this potential drug available to our patients at the earliest possible time. As a responsible company, we will continue to extend our support to the government in all possible ways during this national emergency," Hassan said.

Bemsivir to be given free to Government-designated hospitals

He said Beximco Pharma will supply bemsivir to Government-designated hospitals for Covid-19 treatment, and not make it available through pharmacies, in compliance with tdirectives from Bangladesh drug regulatory authorities.

On the very first day of receiving regulatory approval, Beximco Pharma has donated large quantities of the drug to the Bangladesh Government for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Zahid Maleque MP, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, lauded Beximco Pharma for its initiatives during this time of the pandemic.

He said: "Beximco Pharma has taken various proactive measures to provide the latest, evidence-based treatment options for Covid-19 patients. The company is committed to fighting this unprecedented pandemic, in all possible ways, employing its competitive R&D and manufacturing skills.

"Beximco Pharma has already launched another anti-viral drug, favipiravir, under the brand name viraflu, as well as re-purposed anti-malarial drug, hydroxychlorquine, under the brand name kovicin, and anti-parasitic drug, ivermectin (under the brand name Ivera) as potential Covid-19 treatment.

Beximco Pharma is a leading exporter of pharmaceuticals in Bangladesh and it has a geographic footprint in more than 50 countries.

In August 2016, Beximco Pharma became the first Bangladeshi pharmaceutical company to export medicine to the US market following its manufacturing site approval by the U.S. FDA in June 2015.