THE government’s procurement of Bemsivir, a remdesivir brand produced by Beximco Pharmaceuticals and the health minister’s statement that the drug would be included in COVID-19 treatment protocol raise a couple of questions. The health minister received a supply of 1,000 pieces of Bemsivir injection, which experts say has severe side effects and the use of the drug could bring about serious consequences such as respiratory failure and organ impairment. The minister at the programme where he received the drug said that no vaccine had yet been developed to treat COVID-19 and no drug had so far come up to cure COVID-19 patients. Yet, the minister’s statement that Bemsivir injection would be included in COVID-19 treatment protocol and physicians would administer the injection to COVID-19 patients in a critical condition despite expert warnings appears to be reflective of a hastened decision. Experts at home and abroad have questioned the effectiveness claimed in the case of the drug’s capability of shortening the recovery period for COVID-19 patients. They say that the drug could also cause low albumin, low potassium, low count of red blood cells and low count of platelets that help in blood clotting.
Remdesivir, as experts say, was developed to fight hepatitis C and was then applied in cases of ebola and Marburg viruses, but it proved ineffective in all the virial infections and there is no strong evidence for any significant success of the application of the drug against COVID-19. The drug is still under trial by the National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the United States and is yet to produce any conclusive results in the treatment of the novel coronavirus. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States is reported to have allowed the use of the drug on a limited scale in emergency cases and the decision of the Directorate General of Drug Administration of Bangladesh on the use of the drug appears to have been consequent on the limited approval that the US drug administration has given for the drug. In such a situation, the drug could be abused in the context of Bangladesh where the regime seriously lacks adequate control. Experts have also become sceptical as the government is including the drug, which the producer claims is expensive, in the COVID-19 treatment protocol. Some even smell ‘ulterior motive’, as New Age reported on Friday, in the government move.
It would, therefore, be wise for the government not to hasten its decision on the inclusion of remdesivir, not yet proved to be effective beyond any doubts against the novel coronavirus infection, in the COVID-19 treatment protocol, even if in cases of patients who are in a critical condition.
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