Britain has approved Thursday the Covid experimental oral treatment molnupiravir by Merck & Co (NYSE:MRK). This is the first approval of the antiviral drug around the world by a public health regulator, and experts agree this could be key to putting an end to the pandemic.
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As reported by The Washington Post, should the drug be widely approved, it could have huge potential as, “pills are easier to take, manufacture and store, making them particularly useful in lower-to middle-income countries with weaker infrastructure and limited vaccine supplies.”
Merck President Robert M. Davis said in a statement: “We will continue to move with both rigor and urgency to bring molnupiravir to patients around the world as quickly as possible.”
U.K.’s health secretary Sajid Javid was quoted as saying on the BBC: “Today is a historic day for our country, as the U.K. is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for Covid.”
The pharmaceutical giant is currently working to submit applications to other regulatory agencies. Merck also requested emergency use of the drug to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at a time when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is reviewing the antiviral pill.
In October, the company revealed that the results of a clinical trial showed the drug could reduce hospitalizations and deaths by almost 50% within higher-risk adult coronavirus patients with mild to moderate illness –The first dose in the trial was given to a volunteer in the U.K.
The approval was seen as a “big step forward” by Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies of Geneva.
“I would say it’s very significant in terms of giving patients and the public a large confidence that this treatment can be widely used,” she said.
The MHRA’s chief executive, June Raine, described the treatment as “another therapeutic to add to our armory against Covid-19. It is the world's first approved antiviral for this disease that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously.”
The head of the U.K. regulator also added: “This is important, because it means it can be administered outside of a hospital setting, before Covid-19 has progressed to a severe stage.”
Britain was also quick to authorize a Covid vaccine, becoming the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech shot last December.