Experts say it is partially, but not a ‘silver bullet’
More than a hundred people have died of coronavirus in Pakistan in the last three days. Right now the percentage of active cases per million population in Pakistan is higher than the other regional countries.
The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan will touch their peak in June, experts have predicted.
On Tuesday, Samaa TV anchorperson Nadeem Malik spoke to Ferozsons Laboratories CEO Usman Khalid Waheed about the drugs being used to treat COVID-19 patients and their efficacy. During the show, the anchorperson specifically asked about the drug, remdesivir, which has lately attracted the world’s attention.
Remdesivir is an injectable anti-viral drug, according to Waheed. It was discovered by a US biotechnology firm, Gilead, in 2014 and tried during the Ebola epidemic.
The Ferozsons Laboratories CEO says that scientists are currently conducting clinical trials of remdesivir.
“The US FDA granted it emergency approval on the basis of a randomised controlled trial on 1,000 patients,” he said on the show. “The drug had shown results in advanced cases.”
The anchorperson questioned was the drug as effective in treatment of MERS and SARS viruses as it is expected to be in the case of coronavirus.
“The data of those epidemics was limited, but since it seemed to show promise…it was thought to have efficacy in the case of coronavirus,” Waheed replied. “It was used in some large-scale trials and it showed some efficacy.”
Asked about their capacity to manufacture it, he said his company currently has the capacity of 4 to 5 million doses, which would be increased further.
The Ferozsons Laboratories CEO was then inquired about Pakistan’s capacity to manufacture chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
Multiple companies including ours, have the registration to manufacture hydroxychloroquine, he replied. There are several brands available in the market too.
He, however, said that all these drugs are under trial. “Only remdesivir has shown clinically significant difference in the trials so far, which is why the world is focused more on it,” he said.
“But let me say that remdesivir is not a silver bullet,” Waheed said. “This is not a cure, but a drug whose efficacy is being established to some extent.”
He said rigorous research is being conducted the world over. The research infrastructure in Pakistan is a bit challenging, but we are still engaged with foreign firms, he added.
The other panelist on the show was University of Health Sciences Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Akram.
He said remdesivir is an experimental drug and his university is currently studying the effect of anti-viral drugs on 9,500 patients.
“If anti-viral drugs’ efficacy is proven against RNA viruses like COVID-19, then it means that any anti-viral drug could be effective in its treatment,” Dr Akram said. “However, the efficacy of anti-viral drugs is yet to be established.”
The final results of the ongoing trials of different drugs in Pakistan could take up to six months, according to Dr Akram.