HEPATITIS C A GLOBAL THREAT

GETZ PHARMA STARTS LOCAL PRODUCTION OF MEDICINE

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Aug 16 - 22, 20
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Minister of Health Makhdoom Shahabuddin lauded the initiative taken by Getz Pharma to produce Pegylated Interferon locally as it is a service to those suffering from the Hepatitis C virus.

A message was sent to Getz at the launching of Pegylated Interferon production in Pakistan by the minister who was supposed to attend the ceremony but was held back because urgent issues related to floods were to be managed. DG Health Prof. Dr. Rashid Jooma inaugurated the ceremony.

Makhdoom Shahabuddin said it is important for the country to produce such medicines locally, particularly when the prevalence of Hepatitis C is increasing in the country and taking a huge toll. "The present government is committed to help and encourage all such efforts which are directed to provide better and affordable treatment to the people of Pakistan," he added.

Federal Secretary Health Khushnood Akhtar Lashari, in his message, felicitated Getz Pharma for manufacturing Pegylated Interferon in Pakistan, which is an essential drug for the treatment of Hepatitis C. He hoped that the production of Interferon within the country will undoubtedly help in bringing down substantially the cost of treatment.

Director General Health Prof. Dr. Rashid Jooma in his address to the gathering of select doctors, guests and Getz employees underlined that "we are aware Hepatitis C virus continues to be a major global threat. In 1999, the World Health Organisation estimated a global prevalence of about three percent with the virus affecting 170 million people worldwide. The figure has now crossed 250 million."

"In a research done by the Pakistan Medical Research Council in 2009, the prevalence of Hepatitis C figure was 4.9 percent in Pakistan, with Punjab being more affected at 6.7 percent than other provinces, followed by Sindh at five percent," he revealed.

Welcoming the guests Getz Pharma Managing Director Khalid Mahmood appreciated the support of the MoH for the healthcare sector and said that it bodes well for industrial progress and efforts to eradicate Hepatitis C from Pakistan.

He highlighted that Getz Pharma is a research-oriented pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. The first biotechnology product, Recombinant Human Insulin (Insuget), was developed in 2007-2008 and was launched in the first quarter of 2009.

Mahmood maintained that Getz's second biotechnology product, Pegylated Interferon alfa-2a (Unipeg) is a superior bio-similar which was developed and tested in Europe, through a technology transfer arrangement, and is now being produced at Getz Pharma's state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. "Pegylated Interferon alfa-2a (Unipeg) is now freely available in the market and is being prescribed widely by leading physicians. Pegylated Interferon alfa-2a (Unipeg) will also reduce the cost of the treatment, significantly, for patients suffering from Hepatitis C as compared to the imported ones," he added.

Getz Pharma has invested four billion rupees in the past three years in its state-of-the-art GMP plant and facilities, quality assurance, systems and people. The technology to produce two biotechnology products was developed at a significant cost. The local production of Pegylated Interferon alfa-2a (Unipeg) was made possible as a result of a sizable investment in research and development. All the pre-clinical studies were carried out in Europe, South Africa and USA with the help of a team of scientists from Europe. In order to validate and localise the results, the product was also tested by Pakistani scientists at The Centre for Applied Molecular Biology (CAMB), Lahore. Safety tests were carried out not only by scientists in Europe but also by local scientists at HEJ Institute, Karachi.