Beximco Pharma bracing for remdesivir export to 30 countries
Beximco Pharmaceuticals seem to be going through a purple patch of late.
After grabbing headlines globally last month for being the first company to market remdesivir, the antiviral drug that has shown promise in treating COVID-19 patients, the local pharmaceutical company is now set to export the medicine to more than 30 countries this month.
"We are in talks and have made a lot of progress in some cases. We expect that we can export from this month," Rabbur Reza, chief operating officer of the company, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Without mentioning names of the countries, he said they have been approached by some Asian, African, Middle Eastern and European nations.
"We will export the medicine through our government and so we are receiving requests through their governments only," he said.
Though Beximco Pharmaceuticals' stocks plunged 2.8 per cent to Tk 68 on the Dhaka Stock Exchange yesterday, the price is far better than it was three months ago, according to data of the premier bourse.
Market analysts said investors are optimistic about the company's performance as it has produced a drug like remdesivir to meet the growing demand of the local and international markets.
When most other listed companies suffered a massive drop in their prices amid the fallout of the pandemic, Beximco Pharmaceuticals was faring quite well, they said.
Some other local companies including Eskayef (SK-F), Incepta, Beacon, Healthcare and Square have also got the go-ahead to manufacture remdesivir, a drug developed by American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences.
Eskayef began distributing its version of remdesivir, Remivir, last month.
The injection, which was previously developed to treat the Ebola virus but did not work, has come to the limelight as one of the most promising treatments for COVID-19 that has claimed 375,656 lives around the world so far.
Data from a trial by the National Institutes of Health in the US showed that remdesivir reduced hospitalisation stays by 31 per cent compared to a placebo treatment, but did not significantly improve survival.
California-based Gilead has a patent on remdesivir, which means it has exclusive rights to make it. But, international trade rules allow nations defined by the United Nations as least developed countries, including Bangladesh, to ignore such patents and make drugs more affordable in their markets.
The United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool, which is helping Gilead find partners, contacted Beximco asking if it was interested in the voluntary licencing for remdesivir, Reza was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
Gilead has since licenced five companies including Cipla and Mylan NV in India and Ferozsons Laboratories in Pakistan to make generic versions of the drug and sell in 127 countries.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Beximco Pharmaceuticals sent some remdesivir to Pakistan for three critically ill COVID-19 patients by a special cargo flight.
A spokesperson of Beximco said they sent 48 vials of Bemsivir, the brand name of remdesivir, on humanitarian grounds and at the request of the Pakistan high commission in Dhaka.
"Beximco was requested by official authorities to provide Bemsivir for a small group of critically ill patients against a special import permit issued by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan," he said.
Recently, a medicine manufacturer in Pakistan named Searle Pharma announced that it plans to import remdesivir from Bangladesh. The firm said it had entered into an exclusive licensing and marketing agreement with Bangladesh's Beximco Pharmaceuticals.
"Searle Pharma is planning to import remdesivir in finished form (ready-to-use) to meet the country's urgent requirements," the company told the Pakistan Stock Exchange recently.
Beximco Pharma, listed on the Alternate Investment Market (AIM) of London Stock Exchange. Norway's Norges Bank, the world's biggest sovereign fund, controls 3 per cent of Beximco, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.