May 5, 2020 / 11:32 AM / a month ago

EXCLUSIVE-Bangladesh's Beximco to begin producing COVID-19 drug remdesivir-COO

NEW DELHI, May 5 (Reuters) - One of Bangladesh largest drugmakers, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd, will start production this month of the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir, which has shown promise in fighting the new coronavirus, a senior company executive said on Tuesday.

Remdesivir, a drug developed by Gilead Sciences, has grabbed attention as one of the most promising treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 250,000 people.

U.S. drug authorities granted emergency use authorisation last week, paving the way for its broader use across U.S. hospitals, after Gilead provided data showing the drug helped to improve survival rates for COVID-19 patients.

The company plans to price the drug, which is given via intravenous infusion, at between 5000 and 6000 takas per vial ($59-$71/per vial), Beximco’s Chief Operating Officer Rabbur Reza told Reuters, adding a patient might need anywhere between 5 and 11 vials.

“We will only know exactly how much a patient needs once studies are complete,” Reza said. He said production would begin this month, initially for domestic use only.

Beximco’s pricing indicates a course of remdesivir treatment could cost anywhere between $295 and $781 per patient in the south Asian country depending on the severity of the case, the number of vials required and the final pricing of the drug.

The figures are a first indication of how the potentially life-saving drug will be priced, as countries around the world struggle to control the pandemic.

Gilead has donated an initial batch of 1.5 million vials of the drug to help patients in the United States, but has yet to announce its pricing.

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), which assesses the effectiveness of drugs to determine appropriate prices, put the cost of producing a 10-day course of remdesivir at $10. It suggested the price could rise to $4,500 based on patient benefits shown in clinical trials. (Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in New Delhi; editing by Euan Rocha and Barbara Lewis)

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