ISLAMABAD, Jun 13 (APP):Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza on Saturday said that Tocilizumab (Actemra) and Remedesivir injections used for management of COVID-19 patients are being made available by the government.

Chairing a meeting on the issue here, he said that these medicines will be distributed to critically ill patients through a robust mechanism to meet the needs of various hospitals Over-charging of the Actemra Injection will not be allowed said Dr. Zafar Mirza.

Taking cognizance of reports of short supply of these two injections we took immediate action and after extensive efforts there is an improvement in availability status of the Tocilizumab Injection, he said.

Dr. Zafar Mirza said that over charging on the approved prices of this life-saving injection will not be allowed. Approved Maximum Retail Price (MRP) for Actemra (Tocilizumab) 80 mg injection is Rs. 11, 952 per vial whereas Rs. 29,882 for Actemra 200 mg Injection vial and Rs. 59, 764 for Actemra 400 mg injection vial.

Strict action will be taken against elements involved in the sale of over-charging or black marketing of life-saving drugs in accordance with DRAP Act 2012.

He said that public are encouraged to inform DRAP on its Toll-Free number 0800-03727 in case they have been over-charged for Actemra Injection.

He added that directions have been issued to National Task Force on Eradication of Spurious and Sub-standard drugs to apprehend black marketers and over charging elements on approved prices of Tocilizumab Injection.

Tocilizumab injection is a humanized monoclonal antibody that ordinarily used as an immune suppressant agent in rheumatoid arthritis.

The National Clinical Management Guidelines have included it for use in treatment of critically ill patients of COVID-19 who have Cytokine Release Storm (a condition which a subset of critically ill Covid patients can develop and is established through certain laboratory tests).

However, its availability remained an issue as it was being imported from Japan only.

In order to resolve shortage, DRAP has approved import of Tocilizumab injection from United States of America as well.

Multiple consignments have arrived of the injection, however, it will be made available through authorized distributor only. Hospitals and institutions treating critically ill COIVD-19 patients can contact Roche Company on 0304-1111085 for availability of this injection.

Another important medicine, Remdesivir, is a relatively new antiviral medicine recommended for use in moderate to severe disease by Pakistan’s National Clinical Management Guidelines and has been shown to shorten the duration of illness.

In the Drug Registration Board meeting held on 8th – 11th June 2020, two importers and 12 local manufacturers of Remedesivir have been approved for market authorization. The approvals would allow larger quantities to be made available.

After the approval of medicines for emergency registration, Drug Pricing Committee of DRAP held an emergency meeting today on the request of Dr Zafar Mirza, to fix maximum price for Remedesvir, a statutory requirement in accordance with Drug Pricing Policy 2018 and will be soon approved by the Federal Government.

Information regarding Remedesivir registration status can be obtained from DRAP’s toll free number.

The Government of Pakistan is also planning to import and provide these lifesaving medicines for the patients who cannot afford these medicines as “we consider this the State’s responsibility” said Dr Mirza.

To remove any confusion it is important to clarify that until now importers were bringing very limited number of Remdesivir vials on individual patient-needs base which is a special arrangement under drug law.

But after the recent approvals now importers will be able to import relatively large quantities which will enable us to overcome any shortages.