Gilead’s coronavirus drug remdesivir starts selling in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd. said it has become the world’s first company to start selling the generic version of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s antiviral drug on mounting urgency to treat the infection caused by the deadly coronavirus across the developing world.

The Dhaka-based Beximco, which counts Norges Bank as one of its investors, will sell remdesivir for about 6,000 taka ($71) a vial to private clinics but will give it free to state-run hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, Rabbur Reza, chief operating officer at the company, said in an interview. A critically ill COVID-19 patient will need at least six vials, he said.

Bangladesh can produce generic versions of patented drugs under World Trade Organization provisions that grant least developed countries a waiver from seeking licenses. Remdesivir was cleared by US drug regulator for emergency use in COVID-19 patients, becoming the first medication backed by early clinical data to be made available to fight the novel pathogen.

Requests for export

“We’re also receiving queries from other countries,” Reza said. “The drug will not be supplied through traditional distribution channels. If some governments need our drug, we’ll export it.”

Bangladesh had more than 26,000 infected cases as of Wednesday, while the disease had killed 386, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

The United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool, which is helping Gilead find partners, contacted Beximco asking if it was interested in the voluntary licensing for remdesivir, said Reza. Beximco is waiting to hear back, he said.

A Gilead representative didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Gilead has since licensed five companies including Cipla Ltd. and Mylan NV in India and Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd. in Pakistan to make generic versions of the drug and sell in 127 countries.

Norway’s Norges Bank, the world’s biggest sovereign fund, controls 3 percent of Beximco, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Beximco will sell the drug under the brand name bemsivir, according to a statement from the company.

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