Beximco stirs the pot on experimental Covid drug remdesivir

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on May 22, 2020

Representative image   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

Starts selling the drug in Bangladesh; Gilead distances itself from development

Bangladesh-based Beximco Pharma has caused a stir in the marketplace with its announcement of being the first in the world to sell its version of remdesivir, an investigational drug from Gilead Sciences that’s being used against Covid-19.

Reacting to the development, the US-based Gilead said that it had “not provided a licence to Beximco or any other company in Bangladesh to manufacture remdesivir.” It further added that it could not comment or verify the authenticity or effectiveness of this product as it is not manufactured by Gilead or one of its licensed partners.

Even as scientific voices caution against the rampant use of the drug that has only got emergency use authorisation from the United States Food and Drug Administration, the Dhaka-based Beximco seems to have got a head start of sorts on the drug.

According to reports, the company has started selling the drug in Bangladesh, and was giving it free to state-run hospitals and at $71 a vial to private clinics. With reports quoting the Beximco head as saying they were receiving queries on the drug for export to other countries, this could trigger a turf war of sorts.

Voluntary licences

Just last week, Gilead had signed non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements with five generic pharmaceutical manufacturers based in India and Pakistan to bolster global supplies of remdesivir. The companies were Cipla, Ferozsons Laboratories, Hetero Labs, Jubilant Lifesciences and Mylan, who were licensed to make remdesivir and sell in 127 countries, including Bangladesh. “The countries consist of nearly all low-income and lower-middle income countries, as well as several upper-middle- and high-income countries that face significant obstacles to healthcare access,” the US biopharmaceutical company said.

Gilead’s voluntary licence to select companies had, however, struck a sour note with health advocacy groups who wanted all medicines, vaccines, medical technology and diagnostic solutions developed in these pandemic times to be free of monopolies and patents so they would be equally accessible to all countries and people. In fact, this call was also made to global Health Ministers who interacted virtually at the recently-concluded World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization.

Published on May 22, 2020

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