COVID-19: Eskayef first to produce remdesivir in the country

Remevir, manufactured by Eskayef Pharmaceuticals Ltd

Eskayef Pharmaceuticals, one of the leading drug manufacturing companies of the country, has successfully produced remdesivir, the drug used to treat coronavirus. All procedures for production have been completed and preparations have begun from Friday morning for distribution of the drug.

Managing director and chief executive officer of Eskayef, Simeen Hossain, speaking to Prothom Alo, said at this crucial time in the country, we are happy to give the people the good news that we have successfully completed all the steps in the manufacturing of remdesivir, globally recognised as the only effective drug against coronavirus.

This drug, manufactured by US company Gilead Sciences Inc, has created a sensation all over the world. Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved remdesivir as a drug against coronavirus. The drug administration in Japan gave its permission on 7 May to use this drug on coronavirus patients. However, a health official there informed Reuters that it has not been determined as yet when Japan will begin the manufacture of this drug. It has been learnt that Gilead Sciences is negotiating with large companies in India and Pakistan regarding the manufacture of remdesivir.

Eskayef is the first drug manufacturing company in the world to successfully manufacture generic remdesivir. The brand name for remdesivir manufactured by Eskayef is Remivir. Eskayef said they would send samples of the medicine to the National Control Laboratory of the Directorate General of Drug Administration as per the law. Once the DGDA approves its commercialisation, the company will start distribution of the medicine.

Simeen Hossain told Prothom Alo, the drug administration gave its approval in March to use this drug. “Immediately after that, our formulation scientists started working on the development of remdesivir from mid-March. As this is an injection to be administered intravenously, the production process is extremely sensitive. The tireless and relentless efforts of the Eskayef personnel over the past two months have made it possible to produce the drug within such a short time span. From Eskayef we are fully committed to make sure that our remdesivir is available for the patients in Bangladesh first. We are ensuring availability of sufficient raw materials by having an agreement with API supplier,” she said.

Remdesivir so far has been proven to be the most effective in the treatment of coronavirus or COVID-19. Experiments carried out by Gilead have indicated improvements in the conditions of the patients who have been treated with this drug. The drug is to be administered intravenously. The dosage depends on the condition of the patient. Severely affected patients may need to be treated with drug for 5 to 10 days.

Professor Billal Alam, president of Bangladeshi Medicine Society, told Prothom Alo, “Bangladesh never lags behind in any sector, especially not in production of medicine. We hope Bangladesh will export this particular medicine.”

When asked how this medicine will work, he said hospitals in the US had used the medicine to treat severely ill patients, especially those in the intensive care units (ICU). The medicine could decrease the density of the virus and the patients quickly recovered and were soon discharged.

“We cannot say that this will work in 100 per cent cases, but it is fair to say that remdesivir is helping patients recover,” he added.

Gilead has the patent for the manufacture of remdesivir, but in accordance to international trade laws, countries like Bangladesh, recognised by the UN as lesser developed countries, are not restricted by the patent. As a result, these countries can produce the drug at a reasonable cost. The drug, however, will not be released in the open market for the time being. It will be provided to the government-approved hospitals for coronavirus treatment.

In a discussion at the White House, the top US immunologist and director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD), Anthony Fauci, said that it was evident that remdesivir had a positive influence on the speedy recovery from coronavirus. He said as there was clear evidence that this drug was effective, there was a moral obligation to inform the public about this.

Sitesh Chandra Bachar, chairman of the Dhaka University’s Department of Pharmacy, said remdesivir had been very effective against the Ebola virus. It had also been used against SARS and MERS viruses. The drug has been proved to be effective against respiratory viruses. That is why the United States and Japan have approved its use to treat coronavirus patients.

There is also no obstacle to use it in Bangladesh, he added. “Coronavirus is transmitted to the respiratory tract. That is why the results of the experiments that had been carried out using remdesivir came promising. However, it is still at the 'observation' and 'experimental' stage. Even then, it was found that patients who had used this drug recovered at least 4 to 5 days earlier than the other patients. This is a big deal,” observed the DU teacher.

“Several companies like Eskayef are making the medicine in Bangladesh. Eskayef has already made it while the others are carrying out the process. That is good news. Where there was no treatment for coronavirus, with this drug around there is still some hope for Bangladesh,” he further said.

Eskayef Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a part of the Transcom Group Ltd, headed by Bangladesh’s renowned businessman Latifur Rahman, has been manufacturing quality drugs for the past 30 year. Eskayef exports its medicines to 30 countries in the four continents - Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa – around the world.