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Uganda Plans to Use Ebola Drug to Treat COVID-19 Patients

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Two Indian companies CIPLA and Hetero Pharma that only started manufacturing the drug for emergency use in June following a deal with the original maker Gilead Sciences have already expressed interest in supplying Uganda.
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Uganda is set to start using anti-viral drug remdesivir to treat people who fall critically ill from coronavirus disease or COVID-19, a deal being brokered with India to provide the country with cheaper generic versions of the drug.

Two Indian companies CIPLA and Hetero Pharma that only started manufacturing the drug for emergency use in June following a deal with the original maker Gilead Sciences have already expressed interest in supplying Uganda. 

Dr Bruce Kirenga a lung expert who is part of the COVID-19 treatment team told URN that the drug originally studied for use in Ebola patients and manufactured in the United States of America has the potential to save a lot of people from succumbing to the viral respiratory infection.

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While they would have long put it among the range of drugs on the country’s treatment protocols, Kirenga says it has been very difficult to get the drug given the current demand globally and its high price. Kirenga says some batches of the drug are already in the country, although actual dispensing is yet to start.

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Approval for emergency use of the drug in both adults and children experiencing severe disease even as there was still limited information about its effectiveness was made by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May after two small scale, clinical trials by the US-based National Institutes of Health (NIH) found remedsivir can shorten recovery time in some patients, although it didn’t significantly improve survival rates. 

Kirenga says that just like all medicines that they are currently using including dexamethasone, they are basing their decision on studies done elsewhere to use it here as available evidence so far indicates that the benefits of using it outweigh the potential risk expected.

On his part, Dr Nevin Bradford the Executive Director of CIPLA Quality Chemicals Limited told URN that they had not yet been contacted by the government, over the drug, although he said it can be quickly made available if required through the mother company in India.

However, while earlier remedsivir clinical trials were small, the NIH announced in August that they had embarked on a bigger study involving more than 1000 patients picked across 100 sites across the world   including South Africa to establish safety and efficacy of the drug.

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