Andrew Kathindi

The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) has placed a second order for a batch of Remdesivir, the antiviral medicine being used worldwide to treat COVID-19 patients despite growing debate over the safety and efficiency of the medication.

This comes after the ministry has spent N$1 million for 1,000 vials for the first batch that came into the country last week.

Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula confirmed that the medicine is already being prescribed to patients as it has been shown to shorten the recovery time in patients.

“The medicine is part of our essential medicines and will be procured in the same manner like all other medicines. The medicines were already distributed to hospitals and will be prescribed by doctors according to indications,” said the Minister.

The drug was created by Gilead Sciences originally to fight Ebola, however according to Gilead’s official website, Remdesivir is an investigational drug that has not been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any use.

“It is not yet known if Remdesivir is safe and effective for the treatment of COVID-19.”

Deputy Executive Director in the Health ministry Petronella Masabane, however, dismissed concerns stating that, “If we were worried, we would not have ordered. But there is enough scientific evidence that this can help in the treatment of patients. We will not buy something if we are scared this thing will kill people.”

Masabane further told Windhoek Observer, “There can always be adverse reactions. For example, if I eat peanuts and I am allergic to them, I will get an adverse reaction, while in your case, if you are not allergic to peanuts you can eat ten bags of peanuts. But we are not saying this medicine will cause any adverse effects [in all cases].”

The Deputy ED explained that the medicine the Ministry bought was the generic version from Jubilant, a pharmaceutical company in India, which, Masabane said, got a license from Gilead to manufacture the generic version for a specific zone.

“A patient will typically need 6 vials but in severe cases up to 12 vials would be needed over a ten-day period. State patients pay a flat rate of N$4 at clinics, N$8 at health center and N$15 at a hospital (N$30). For that they can get any treatment,” she said.

This comes as the Ministry announced 52 new recoveries on Tuesday [without the use of the new medication] which brought the total number to 3,379.

As of Tuesday, 1 September, Namibia had 1,731 people in quarantine, while there are 4,232 active cases of COVID-19. Of the active cases, 29 cases are in severe to critical conditions.