Pakistan, India firms to make antiviral drug for COVID-19 treatment

Islamabad, May 15 (efe-epa).- A Pakistani pharma company will manufacture and supply a generic version of remdesivir antiviral for COVID-19 patients, joining four other Indian counterparts after an agreement with an American drug maker Gilead that has the patent for the medicine.

“Pakistan will be among three countries in the world to produce and export this medicine to 127 countries. This is a big breakthrough and this is big news for coronavirus patients in Pakistan,” Health Minister Zafar Mirza told reporters on Friday.

Calling it “a big breakthrough”, Mirza said it was “big news for coronavirus patients in Pakistan” that has recorded 37,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with more than 800 deaths.

The minister underlined that the plan was to export to countries, including those in Europe, according to the agreement signed with Gilead.

Pakistani pharmaceutical company Ferozsons Labs will begin production in about eight weeks and try to sell the drug at the lowest possible cost, according to its CEO Osman Khalid Waheed.

Ferozsons is one of five generic firms that will be able to produce and market remdesivir. The other four are Indian companies: Cipla, Hetero Labs, Jubilant Lifesciences, and Mylan.

Cipla’s CEO Umang Vohra said in a statement “as the world is faced with the COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative that we collaborate and fight this virus together.”

“Our partnership with Gilead represents this unwavering commitment and is a significant step towards saving millions of lives impacted by the pandemic,” he said.

Jubilant Lifesciences said the 127 countries “consist of nearly all low-income and lower-middle-income countries, as well as several upper-middle and high-income countries that face significant obstacles to healthcare access”.

Gilead announced that it would transfer the technology to these companies for the production of the generic drug with free-license until the World Health Organization declares an end to the health emergency due to COVID-19 or a vaccine or drug to treat the disease is found.

Remdesivir, which is administered intravenously and used on patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19, received emergency authorization from the United States government following a clinical trial earlier this month showing that the drug shortened the recovery time of some patients.

Despite the high expectations of remdesivir – originally developed to treat Ebola – as a potential treatment against COVID-19, studies remain unclear about its effectiveness against the novel coronavirus. EFE-EPA


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