Cabinet approval to be sought to buy drug for critical Covid-19 patients

Updated May 30 2020

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Some experts support use of drug, say it brought some relief to critical Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care units in various countries, including Pakistan and India. — AFP/File
Some experts support use of drug, say it brought some relief to critical Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care units in various countries, including Pakistan and India. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The health department is drafting a summary to seek approval from the Punjab cabinet for the purchase of the interleukin-6 inhibitor drug to use it on critical patients of Covid-19.

The summary will be moved to the cabinet in the coming days amid some controversies regarding the drug, as experts say it is under trial internationally and no scientific evidences were available yet.

However, some of them supported this experimental drug — which goes by the generic name of tocilizumab, saying its use had brought some relief to critical Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) in various countries, including Pakistan and India.

Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan Pricing Director Amanullah told Dawn the drug was registered with them for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and was available in the market. According to some reports, he said, the drug was used in India and Pakistan to treat immune disorder of critical patients of Covid-19.

Mayo Hospital Lahore Chief Executive Prof Dr Asad Aslam endorsed some reports of efficacy of the drug on Covid-19 patients. He said the Corona Experts Advisory Group had sent recommendations to the Punjab government to start using the drug on patients in ICUs. The group had issued guidelines in this respect on May 8 mentioning the protocols of its use and management of serious patients.

Following the recommendations, he said, the health department called a meeting a few days back and granted permission to use the drug.

To a question, he said the Mayo Hospital also used the drug on critical patients in its ICU. “We found promising response of this drug and 10 patients recovered completely whose condition was so critical that the doctors were not hopeful of their survival,” Prof Aslam said.

To another question, he said several countries had tried various drugs as an experiment to save lives of critical patients of coronavirus. It was effective for autoimmune disorder and carefully suggested for critical patients of Covid-19, he added.

University of Health Sciences (UHS) Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Javed Akram said that medical organisations and researchers world over were struggling to find answers to the golden question: what works and what doesn’t for Covid-19.

He said so far no breakthrough could be achieved in his respect, adding that the elderly, smokers and diabetics remained most vulnerable to Covid-19.

The UHS is engaged in developing a population-based genetic panel of mutations to explore the possibility of identifying the population venerable to inflammatory lung damage. “The interleukin-6 inhibitor has been found useful to some extent in decreasing the inflammation,” he said.

Prof Akram further said it has been observed that apart from inflammatory lung damage, blood clots were also formed in lungs of individuals suffering from storm and the use of blood-thinning agents has been found useful in such cases. “Similarly, some authorities recommend use of intravenous cortico steroids to combat the inflammation,” he added.

However, the struggle is to avoid ventilation, if possible, by administering high flow oxygen and non-invasive ventilations, he said. Similarly, plasma Immunoglobulin G and another technology are being studied and developed by the UHS.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020