The ‘Game-Changer’ COVID Pills Are Here

These new drugs are making people pin their hopes on quicker global economic recovery. So, what are they, and will it help us control the pandemic?

What’s New?

Last Thursday, Britain became the first country in the world to approve a COVID-19 antiviral pill. Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recommended the drug, molnupiravir, and it has been jointly developed by U.S-based Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

The approval is the first for an oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 and the first for a COVID-19 drug that will be administered widely in the community. U.S advisers will be meeting on November 30 to review the drug’s safety and efficacy data. The advisers will vote on whether molnupiravir should be authorised.

Molnupiravir

The drug, molnupiravir (MK-4482, EIDD-2801), was developed initially to treat influenza. It has been repurposed to treat COVID patients. The drug interferes with the replication of SARS-CoV-2, thereby reducing severity of disease.

The pill is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and is taken twice a day for five days. It is most effective when used early. The UK has recommended its use as soon as possible after a positive test and within five days of symptoms onset.

Paxlovid

Molnupiravir isn’t the only COVID-19 pill that has been made. Paxlovid is an investigational SARS-CoV-2 “protease inhibitor antiviral therapy.” It inhibits viral replication at proteolysis, which is a stage that occurs before viral replication.

Pfizer said that the pill is designed to be administered orally so that it can be prescribed at the first sign of infection or at first sign of infection or at first awareness of an exposure. The company added that Paxlovid considerably reduced hospitalisation and death among non-hospitalised adult COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of developing severe symptoms.

The Impact

These pills will help us in controlling the pandemic and might prevent the prolonging of the pandemic. On the other hand, the news about the pills is helping the shares of those companies, which are tied to the reopening of trade. A Bloomberg gauge of Macau casino shares surged 7.2%, which is the biggest move in more than two months. An index of Asia-Pacific airline shares jumped as much as 5.5%, the most since March. The shares of luggage manufacturer Samsonite International SA rose 15% in Hong Kong.

Jun Rong Yeap, market strategist with IG Asia Pte. in Singapore told Bloomberg, the pill is “bringing some hope that reopening will be able to take place more smoothly, especially if the pill is able to reduce the strain on hospital capacity.” Jun added, “The fact that it is an oral treatment may also suggest that it may be more well-received, along with its high efficacy.”

Coming To India

Merck has been in discussions with several Indian drug manufacturers for voluntary licensing for molnupiravir. On June 29, Cipla, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd (DRL), Emcure Pharmaceuticals, Sun Pharmaceutical, Torrent Pharmaceuticals announced that they are collaborating for a trial for the drug for the treatment of mild COVID in an outpatient setting.

Merck also said that it has entered into non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements for molnupiravir with major Indian generic manufacturers to increase availability of the poll in over 100 low-and middle-income countries following approvals by local agencies. Pfizer also committed to ensuring equitable access to Paxlovid for all people at an affordable price.

Zooming Out

Japan’s Shionogi & Co., is also developing a rival drug to Pfizer’s and the company is anticipating late-stage trial data on the treatment by December. So, these pills might help us control the pandemic, and help in the recovery of the global economy. The pills might reduce hospitalisation and give us a fighting chance against this pandemic. We have to wait and see whether these pills help low-income countries control the pandemic and prevent the formation of new variants.

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