Beximco Pharmaceuticals yesterday handed over the first batch of its antiviral drug remdesivir that has shown the most promise in treating Covid-19 patients by cutting the duration of symptoms from 15 days to 11.
The delivery took place on the day the drug administration gave emergency authorisation to the company to market the drug with the brand name Bemsivir IV.
A Beximco spokesperson said the drug would be provided free of cost to the government hospitals, and would not be sold at drug stores as per the requirement of Directorate General of Drug Administrations.
The price of a vial of Bemsivir would not be over Tk 5,500 including taxes, Rabbur Reza, chief operating officer of Beximco Pharma, told The Daily Star.
Private hospitals treating Covid-19 patients will be able to buy it for Tk 4,800 because they are exempt from taxes.
A critically ill Covid-19 patient will need between six and 11 vials.
Developed by American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, remedeivir was originally developed to treat the Ebola virus, but it did not work.
However, it turned out to be effective in helping Covid-19 patients based on the ability to disable the mechanism by which certain viruses, including the coronavirus, replicate themselves and potentially overwhelm their host's immune system.
While Gilead has a patent on remdesivir, international trade rules allow nations defined by the United Nations as least-developed countries, including Bangladesh, to manufacture the drug for the local market without patent fees.
Six local companies -- Beximco, Eskayef (SK-F), Incepta, Beacon, Healthcare and Square -- are making the generic version of the drug.
"We are pleased to be the first generic company in the world to introduce this very important drug for treating the hospitalised Covid-19 patients," said Nazmul Hassan, managing director of Beximco Pharma, in a statement.
The first batch of the medicine was handed over by Hassan to Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque at a ceremony at the health ministry.