Oral medicine for Covid-19 now available in Bangladesh
The drug is not a substitute for vaccination
Molnupiravir, the first oral medicine for Covid-19, is now available in the country's domestic market. Beximco Pharmaceuticals launched their generic version of the medicine, "Emorivir – 200," on Monday night.
Later on Tuesday, SKF Pharmaceuticals began to supply the medicine. Square Pharmaceuticals is scheduled to bring the medicine to market within a week, and Renata Limited plans to bring the medicine within the next two weeks.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) has so far authorised these four companies to manufacture and market Molnupiravir. Major General Md Mahbubur Rahman, director-general, DGDA, said Molnupiravir has been authorised for emergency use.
"A total of 10 companies applied to manufacture and market the drug but we have authorised a few to do so. We will gradually approve other companies as well," he added.
Rahman said domestic pharmaceutical companies will be approved after capacity verification and they will later be able to export the drug as well after they meet domestic demand.
Earlier, on 4 November 2021, Molnupiravir was approved by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as the world's first oral product to treat symptomatic Covid-19.
Price of the drug
The director-general of DGDA said patients whose doctors prescribe the medicine to them will have to take four capsules twice a day, totalling eight capsules every day for five days. Each 200-milligram capsule will cost Tk50.
Rabbur Reza, chief operating officer of Beximco Pharmaceuticals, said their company has set the price of each capsule at Tk70 and it will cost Tk2,800 to complete the five-day course of 40 Emorivir capsules."
Reza said Beximco has been working on this drug since June last year.
"We immediately started distributing the medicine to Dhaka pharmacies following approval from the DGDA. Our representatives are visiting doctors and briefing them regarding the new medicine as we speak," he added.
Beximco started sending the drug to different parts of the country on Tuesday, prioritising areas with higher infection numbers, Reza said.
Jubayer Alam, company secretary of Renata Limited, said they will charge Tk50 for each capsule.
Each capsule from SKF Pharmaceuticals will also be priced at Tk50. Square Pharmaceuticals said each of the capsules manufactured by the company will cost Tk50 – Tk70.
Efficacy of the drug
Major General Md Mahbubur Rahman said the drug will help reduce hospitalisation and mortality rates by at least 50%.
"But the drug is not a substitute for vaccination and everyone must remember that. Only people over the age of 18 can take the drug upon a doctor's advice," Rahman added.
Professor Dr Robed Amin, spokesperson, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), during the launching programme of Monuvir, SKF's generic version of Molnupiravir, said the oral drug will help to significantly reduce the Covid-19 death rate.
"If people at high risk are given the drug at an early stage, then death rates in the country will come down to zero soon," he added.
About the drug itself, Amin said, it is a safe, certified, tested, and trusted drug.
"It is surprising that we got the drug as soon as we did. We request pharmaceutical companies keep the drug affordable so that every citizen in need can utilise it," he added.