Pakistan will soon begin production of the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has shown promise in treating the new coronavirus, the country’s top health official and chief executive of a pharmaceutical company announced on Friday.
Production should start “in a few weeks,” said Osman Khalid Waheed, chief executive of Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd, which will produce the drug. He spoke at a press conference with Pakistan’s de facto health minister Zafar Mirza.
“Pakistan will be among the top three countries in the world where it will not only be produced but will also be exported worldwide,” said Mirza. It will be exported to 127 countries, he said.
Remdesivir, a drug developed by Gilead Sciences, has drawn attention as one of the most promising treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 300,000 people.
To expand its access, Gilead said it signed non-exclusive licensing pacts here with five generic drug manufacturers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them to make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries.
“It is a commitment from us and Gilead that this drug could be produced at minimal cost and made more accessible,” Waheed said.
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Pakistan has recorded 37,218 cases of COVID-19 and 803 deaths. Blockades to stem the spread of the disease are forecast to cause the country’s economy to shrink from 1% to 1.5% in 2020.
Despite the rising infection rate, Pakistan began lifting those blockades last week, primarily to prevent an economic collapse.