The health ministry swung into action on Saturday after reports emerged that two drugs currently being used for the management of COVID-19 patients were in short supply in the country, Radio Pakistan reported.
Chairing a meeting regarding the coronavirus situation in the federal capital, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said tocilizumab and remedesivir injections used for the COVID-19 patients are being made available by the government.
The SAPM said these medicines will be distributed to critically ill patients through a robust mechanism to meet the needs of various hospitals.
He said taking cognizance of reports of short supply of these two injections we took immediate action and after extensive efforts, there is an improvement in the availability status of the tocilizumab injection.
Zafar said strict action will be taken against the elements found involved in over-charging or black marketeering of life-saving drugs in accordance with DRAP Act 2012.
The health adviser said the public is encouraged to inform the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) on its toll-free number 0800-03727 in case they have been over-charged for the Actemra Injection.
He said directions have been issued to National Task Force on Eradication of Spurious and Sub-standard drugs to apprehend the black marketeers.
Meanwhile, in a meeting of DRAP’s Drug Processing Committee, the minimum price of remedesivir was also finalsed.
Actemra import from US approved
Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid said that the government has allowed the import of Actemra from the US as the manufacturer has earlier informed the authorities that due to certain restrictions the drug can only be imported from Japan.
Briefing media in Lahore today, the Punjab minister said the provincial government had requested the DRAP to grant the permission to import it from other destinations.
“Roche, the manufacturer of Actemra, informed us that the drug is not produced in a large quantity in Japan to meet the local requirements so we asked the federal government to allow import from the US,” Rashid said.
She, however, warned the people to not use it on their own and follow the protocols issued by the health officials.
“It could be dangerous for the patient if it is used without doctor’s advise. We are using it on a trial basis and we will be only able to decide after it is trialled on 1,000 patients.”
She cautioned that the government will take action against those hoarding the drug to sell it at higher rates.
Through the advertisements in today’s newspaper the Swiss manufacturer also informed the health practitioners to contact their authorised distributor for its availability on government-approved rates.