Pakistan will begin manufacturing a drug, Remdesivir, in the next six to eight weeks that has proven to be successful in treating coronavirus patients in the US, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza announced on Friday.
“One of Pakistan’s major pharmaceutical companies, Ferozsons Laboratories, will be given the license to manufacture the drug,” Dr Mirza said while addressing a press conference.
He was flanked by Prime Minister’s Adviser on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood and Ferozsons Laboratories CEO Usman Khalid Waheed.
The license will be given by US-based multinational Gilead Sciences. A drug produced by the company has improved the health of 30% US residents who contracted COVID-19.
Gilead Sciences agreed to give Pakistan a non-exclusive voluntary license after reaching an agreement with the government.
“On May 7, the PM spoke to the company’s leadership via video link and convinced them that we can ensure the drug’s quality production. On May 12, the company agreed to partner with us,” said Dr Zafar.
“It’s a very big day for Pakistan. Gilead has given the license to only four other companies so far.”
The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan has been directed to do a fast-track registration of the anti-viral medicine. It will be administered to patients in the form of an injection. The Ferozsons’s CEO assured that the drug will be sold at a minimal price once manufactured.
Dr Mirza said Pakistan plans to export the anti-viral drug to 127 other countries. This will make Pakistan only the third country in the world to manufacture and export this medicine.
He added that a training programme is also being started for around 100,000 frontline health workers. They’ll be taught how to use their protective equipment in the most efficient way to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus.
People should know that this medicine is not a cure for the coronavirus, said Dr Attaur Rehman, a scientist specialising in organic chemistry, while speaking to SAMAA TV.
“This won’t help treat the virus but it helps hasten the recovery period,” he explained. So if it takes 15 days for recovery, then with the help of this medicine it will take you 11 days.
It is great that Pakistan will be manufacturing this drug but don’t be too hopeful about its success rate, he added.