Britain has become the first country to approve the use of COVID-19 antiviral pill from U.S.-based companies Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. The drug molnupiravir is recommended by Britain’s Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to help against mild to moderate COVID-19 and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It shall be taken at least five days after testing positive for COVID-19 according to the regulator.
This approval will make the drug the first oral antiviral treatment to be widely available. Further meetings by U.S. advisers will be held regarding the drug’s safety and efficacy to decide for its authorization. The drug will be known as Lagevrio in Britain and is advised to be taken twice for five days for COVID-19 patients. In spite of the same class of drug being linked to birth defects in animal studies, its developers have claimed that their animal testing has proven it safe but has yet to disclose data to the public. Molnupiravir is not being closely observed as it showed to have the capability to halve the chances of contracting severe COVID-19 along with its risks. U.K. vaccine minister, Maggie Throup then stated that the British government is now studying how antiviral drugs would be efficiently maximized against COVID-19.
MHRA chief June Rain stated that the public can trust the MHRA on having conducted a thorough assessment of the data on molnupiravir to ensure its quality, safety, and effectiveness for the British people. This statement from Rain was welcomed by independent pharmaceutical physician Professor Penny Ward but stressed the need of planning and precautions as the supplies were likely to be tight due to expected strong global demands. Britain was able to secure 480,000 courses if molnupiravir last October.
With additional report: reuters
Image sources: forbes, sciencefocus and reuters