Although the number of coronavirus cases in the country has reached to 4,500, some significant decisions have been taken by the government, including approval of clinical trials of plasma therapy and locally produced ventilators for the treatment of critically ill patients and authorization for the manufacture of sanitizers and the production of chloroquine, the malaria drug.
The government has been criticized for its decision to allow Chloroquine to be exported as Pakistan is in the ‘malaria belt’ and the drug is being tested as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah suggested extending the lockdown, which is going to end on April 14, for one more week as seven members of a family belonging to Karachi’s District Central have been infected with the virus.
As per the statement released by Pakistan’s Drug Regulatory Authority (Drap), the authority conducted back-to-back expert committee meetings to examine applications for the manufacture of different products, comprising of mechanical ventilators, hand sanitizers and the manufacture of medicines.
The statement said, “The Central Licensing Board of Drap has approved local manufacturing of Chloroquine phosphate active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), a drug used in the management of COVID-19 patients. Now Chloroquine API can be manufactured indigenously to meet the requirement of those pharmaceutical companies that prepare Chloroquine phosphate tablets, injections, and syrups.”
“In another meeting, the Clinical Study Committee (CSC) of Drap allowed clinical trials of convalescent plasma for passive immunization during the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan. The application was submitted by Professor Dr. Tahir Shamsi, principal investigator and chairman of the National Institute of Blood Diseases and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Karachi. In this study, convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients would be injected into the bodies of moderate and serve patients for passive immunity for the treatment and to prevent these patients from going on ventilators,” the statement added.
In a recent press conference, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza informed about the decision of the provision of protective equipment (PPE) to 152 hospitals, sufficient for one week, across the country and later the number of hospitals would be increased to 400.
“The media has been claiming that less number of cases, as compared to estimates, has been reported in Pakistan. It is true but people should continue taking precautionary measures as a sudden surge in cases can be observed anytime,” he expressed.
According to the notification released by the Ministry of Commerce, the export of Chloroquine has been allowed. In response to this action, Dr. Shahid Malik said that Pakistan needed the medicine due to its location in ‘Malaria Belt’ and it was unfortunate that its export had been allowed which could lead to its shortage in the local market.
Furthermore, a month ago, USA President Donald Trump said that the FDA had approved the use of Chloroquine to treat COVID-19. However, the FDA stated that it had not approved any medicine regarding the treatment of the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Mirza had also said that the sale of Chloroquine without recommendation had been banned. “It is an old medicine which is being used for the treatment of malaria but it has suddenly disappeared from the market,” he said.