New corona drug being manufactured in Bangladesh

The much-awaited drug to fight coronavirus, molnupiravir, is being manufactured in Bangladesh too

The much-awaited drug to fight coronavirus, molnupiravir, is being manufactured in Bangladesh too

For long there had been no drug for the treatment of coronavirus, but last week the UK government gave its approval for the new drug molnupiravir. The capsule, to be administered orally, is now being manufactured in Bangladesh. This is a milestone, according to drug experts.

According to sources at the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) and various pharmaceutical companies, almost all the major drug manufacturing companies in the country have applied to DGDA for approval to manufacture this drug. The companies awaiting this approval are Eskayef, Square, Beximco, Reneta, Incepta, Health Care, Radiant, Acme and a few others.

The oral anti-viral drug molnupiravir has been manufactured by the US company Merck and Ridgeback. Tests on the drug have been carried out in 17 countries including UK, the US, Canada, France, France and Germany.

The United Kingdom Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority gave its approval to the drug on 4 November. The European Medicine Agency and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are considering approval of the drug.

Several drug manufacturing companies around the world are working on the manufacture of a drug against coronavirus. Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutic are ahead in this race, with the innovation of molnupiravir.

International media reports that Pfizer has been receiving positive results from a drug it is working on. All these days people were looking forward to new vaccines, now they are looking forward to new drugs to fight against coronavirus.

Drug experts see the manufacture of this new drug in Bangladesh as an important milestone.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, professor of pharmacy at Dhaka University, Sitesh Chandra Bachar said, "This is a significant event during the pandemic. We were not able to manufacture the corona vaccine, but we will soon be manufacturing a drug against Covid. We have the capacity. Once the drug comes to the market, controlling corona will be easier."

This oral capsule is to be taken the moment corona symptoms appear. This will make it possible to avert serious illness and hospitalisation. The entire world was waiting such a drug from the outbreak of the pandemic. Merck managed to successfully come up with the drug after months of experimentation. Tests on the effectiveness of molnupiravir show that only 7.3 per cent of the patients using the drug had to be hospitalised.

A senior official of DGDA, on condition of anonymity, said on Monday night several companies had taken up the initiative to manufacture molnupiravir and had, initially, applied for the approval of the 'recipe'. Some of the companies had been given approval.

The 'recipe' involves the ingredients, the proportion of these ingredients, how the drug will be manufactured and so on. Once the recipe is approved, the companies will submit their capsules or samples to the directorate which will then run tests on the drug. Then, if all is well, approval will be given for the manufacture of molnupiravir.

Due to global trade policies and laws, Bangladesh can manufacture drugs invented by other companies or countries. The intellectual property act does not apply here. Bangladesh's pharmaceutical companies are using this to their advantage in manufacturing the Merck drug. However, only Eskayef, Square, Incepta, Acme and Renata have drug manufacturing plants approved by the United Kingdom Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority.

An official of one of the major drug manufacturing companies on Monday night told Prothom Alo, on condition of anonymity, that an adult will have to take four of these capsules in the morning and four in the evening.

In that manner, 40 capsules will be taken by a patient in five days. Each capsule is likely to cost Tk 70. The drug will soon be in the market, the official said.