Remdesivir is safe for corona treatment - Shangula

02 September 2020 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK



Health minister Kalumbi Shangula has allayed Namibians' fears over the antiviral drug Remdesivir that government has acquired for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

The country representative of the Africa Centres for Disease Control, Dr Eric Dziuban, also said Remdesivir is one of the very few drugs which has been shown to be effective for people with severe Covid-19. Some people were worried about a label on the drug stating that it is not for distribution in the United States, Canada or European Union.





Dr Shangula said the labelling was merely for marketing purposes.

“Especially now because the demand for Remdesivir is high, manufacturers are labelling the batches for the segments of the world to allow better and focused distribution routes and destinations.

“It is also connected to pricing. Medicines that are sold in the developing world at reduced prices should not find their way into Europe, where the same products are sold at a higher price,” Shangula said.

He added that the antiviral medicine has been shown to shorten the recovery time of Covid-19 patients.

It has been distributed to Namibian hospitals and will be prescribed by doctors according to indications.

Proven efficacy

Dziuban too, has dispelled concerns over the use of the drug and said Namibia was fortunate to have acted early and acquired it for the country's hospitals.

“Remdesivir was developed by a pharmaceutical company that can only make a limited supply. Because of this, they gave a voluntary licence to other manufacturers to produce the drug for dozens of other countries. Remdesivir does get used in the US, EU, and Canada as well, just from a different manufacturer than the product available in Namibia,” he said.

According to media reports in June 2020, the United States had bought nearly all the available Remdesivir supplies in the world for the next three months.

Al Jazeera reported at the time that the manufacturing company Gilead said it would price Remdesivir at US$2 340 per patient in the US and other rich nations. In 127 poor or middle-income countries, Gilead is allowing generic makers to supply the drug.

The Washington Post also reported that Gilead would charge US hospitals US$3 120 for a typical patient with private insurance, while other developed countries would pay 25% less than the US, to make the drug as widely available as possible throughout the world.

Health deputy executive director Petronella Masabane said: “We are buying the generic version from Jubilant, a company in India, which got a licence from Gilead to manufacture the generic version for a specific zone.

“We paid about N$1 000 per vial and a patient will typically need six vials, but in severe cases up to 12 vials over a ten-day period. The cost you quoted is the branded medicine (Remdesivir), which is only sold in three countries.”

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