Pakistan will soon start manufacturing Covid-19 treatment drug: Dr Zafar Mirza
Mirza says production can commence as early as eight weeks after necessary regulatory approvals are obtained
ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza on Friday said Pakistan will soon start production of the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has shown promise in treating the novel coronavirus.
“Pakistan will be among the first three countries in the world where it will not only be produced but will also be exported to the whole world,” he said while addressing a press conference at the National Command and Operation Centre. It will be exported to 127 countries, he said.
Production should start “within weeks,” said Osman Khalid Waheed, the chief executive of Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd, which will produce the drug. He spoke at the media briefing alongside the PM’s aide.
Remdesivir, a drug developed by the Gilead Sciences, has grabbed attention as one of the most promising treatments for Covid-19, the respiratory disease, which has killed more than 300,000 people worldwide. To expand its access, Gilead said it signed non-exclusive licensing pacts with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them to make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries.
“It is a commitment by us and Gilead that this medicine could be produced at minimum cost and make it most accessible,” Waheed said.
The SAPM said the drug will be registered on fast track basis by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to fulfil legal requirements. “This is a big breakthrough and this is big news for coronavirus patients in Pakistan, who are increasing by the day and are expected to increase more.”
On the development, Dr Mirza said that it is for the “first time” that a manufacturer from Pakistan has been included in a global supply solution of such nature. The development represents an important step forward for the country on the health, economic and diplomacy fronts, he added.
“It helps provide our citizens and frontline healthcare workers access to the latest treatment for the pandemic in a fast-track manner,” the premier’s aide said.
Speaking on the occasion, Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood said the local manufacture of the drug represents an important export opportunity for the country’s pharmaceutical sector at a critical juncture.
Dawood added the export of the drug to the developing world at this time of need will also position Pakistan to play its rightful role on the global stage of public health.
According to the government’s tally, so far 37,218 virus cases and 803 deaths have been recorded. Lockdowns to curb the disease’s spread are forecast to cause the economy to shrink 1-1.5% in 2020. Despite a rising rate of infection, the government began lifting those lockdowns last week, primarily to avert an economic meltdown.
Meanwhile, the government’s point-man on health inaugurated ‘We Care’, the national training programme for doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).
Addressing the ceremony, Dr Mirza said the online training course is designed to explain the standard usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers while keeping in mind the limitations of working during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This course aims to engage more than a 100,000 doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff from all over Pakistan,” he added. The course is designed to make participants aware of the role of the PPE in protecting oneself in a contagious environment and their responsibility to wear the proper PPE, according to the risk in the environment they are working in.
A standardised national curriculum has been developed for such training, he said, adding that top medical universities from all across the country (one in each province) are selected to deliver the training to their respective areas. A special documentary on proper usage of the PPE was also played during the event.
“Steady and adequate direct supplies of the PPEs is part of the campaign, which is being handled by the National Disaster Management Authority,” he said.
The campaign was presented to all the provincial/area health ministers and agreed with them, he said, adding that the campaign will complement the ongoing efforts by the provinces and development partners for the same purpose.
‘We Care’ also aims to sensitise the public, including patients and visitors at healthcare facilities, to supports front line healthcare workers by following the preventive behaviours to not only reduce the risk of infection but also reduce the burden and health risks for the health providers.
With input from Reuters