Local companies to produce new Covid-19 pill

Emergency usage approval soon
An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill called molnupiravir being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters May 17, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS

The procedure to produce Molnupiravir, the first ever pill to treat symptomatic Covid-19, developed by US drug companies Merck and the Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, has begun in Bangladesh.

A number of top local pharmaceutical companies have applied for the recipe approval of Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) to produce the drug.

The DGDA has already given the approval to some companies. Others will get it too, said sources, including officials from the companies.

Following the recipe approval, local pharmaceutical companies will produce samples and submit them to the DGDA. If allowed by the drug authorities, the companies can supply the pill to the market, said the sources.

Experts observed this as an important progress in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ten companies, including Eskayef, Beximco, Square, Renata, Incepta and Beacon pharmaceuticals limited, are on the list of those waiting for the approval.

Among them, only Eskayef, Square, Incepta, Acme and Renata have the UK-MHPRA standard medicine production plants.

Molnupiravir, the first and only specific drug developed to treat Covid-19 patients, will be given twice a day to vulnerable patients diagnosed with the disease.

In clinical trials of the pill, originally developed to treat flu, the risk of hospitalisation or death was cut by about 50 percent and during the trials only 7.3 percent of the patients who were given this medicine needed to be hospitalised.

The trials were done in 23 countries, including the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the Philippines.

On November 4, the United Kingdom Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (UK-MHPRA) approved the medicine for therapeutic use.

Meanwhile, the European Medicine Agency and the Food and Drug Administration of the US are considering approval.

While a number of foreign pharmaceuticals have been trying to develop medicines to treat Covid-19, Merck and the Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have come ahead in the race. Another drug developed by the Pfizer company has also shown promising results in preliminary trials, reports global media.

This development will create interest among people on Covid-19 medicines, in line with vaccines.

Medicine experts observed the initiative to produce Covid-19 drug locally as an important event.

"This is a big event at the time of a pandemic. We could not produce Covid-19 vaccines locally, but will be able to produce the medicine soon. We have the capacity to produce it. Once it is in the market, controlling Covid-19 will be easier," said Sitesh C Bachar, a professor of Dhaka University's pharmacy department.

An official of a pharmaceutical company said any adult Covid-19 patient has to take four Molnupiravir capsules twice a day. The cost of each capsule may be around Tk 70.

This will help prevent the severity of the illness and hospital admission.

A DGDA official said several companies have applied for the approval of the drug's recipe and the directorate has already approved a few of those.

Due to the global trade policy and laws, Bangladesh can produce medicines developed by other countries or companies, irrespective of copyright. 


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