This past month, pharma-giant Merck after its third phase results has approached the FDA for approval of their new ‘anti-viral’ pill called Molnupiravir. Based on the FDA’s decision, doctors in the United States could start prescribing the drug in the upcoming month.
Up till now, Covid-19’s onset symptoms were being treated by a cocktail of other drugs like antiparasitic drug ivermectin, antiviral drug remdesivir and anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
According to Merck:
Molnupiravir is a twice-daily pill that has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death among people infected with the coronavirus
US Federal government, even before the FDA’s approval, has declared intentions to purchase 1.7 million courses of the pill for $1.2 billion. By Merck’s expectation, they can produce 10 million courses of the drug by the end of the year.
Molnupiravir – Outside the US?
Merck collaborates with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on this and shared in a statement that besides gathering approval from the FDA, they will also seek emergency authorisation to market the pill in other countries. Robert M. Davis, the CEO and president of Merck had this to say:
With these compelling results, we are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic and will add to Merck’s unique legacy of bringing forward breakthroughs in infectious diseases when they are needed most.
The need for a drug like Molnupiravir is twofold. First, while vaccination continues around the world, the anti-covid pill will give patients an even better shot at survival and prevent hospitalization because of its targeted and stronger approach. Secondly, many countries don’t have enough access to vaccines either due to unavailability or the cost. This pill can be seen as a way to bridge the gap in vaccination coverage in both the US and around the world.
Versus the cost of transfusion setup at $1000 and the cost of a drug like $3100, the Molnupiravir is a much cheaper treatment option at $700 per course. And Merck says that this pricing will be different in different countries. The pharmaceutical company is also licensing its production to five different drug manufacturers in India. This would mean greater supplies at lower costs.
The pill, however, in no way is a substitute for vaccination according to medical experts. But the positive results that were generated by the trial came from those individuals who were unvaccinated and exposed to different strains of the virus.
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