First COVID-19 Antiviral Pill Could ‘Soon’ Be Used In CARICOM

The content originally appeared on: St. Lucia Times News

Barbados Today:- A potentially life-saving antiviral pill for the treatment of COVID-19 in adults could be soon in use in Barbados and elsewhere in the Caribbean Community, the chief public health officer in CARICOM said Thursday.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency Dr Joy St John said that once the drug, Molnupiravir, receives World Health Organisation approval, CARPHA would be making a recommendation for use to CARICOM.

The announcement comes a day after drug-maker Merck & Co said it would license qualified pharmaceutical firms worldwide to produce the oral medication under an agreement with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patents Pool.

“This agreement will help create broad access for molnupiravir use in 105 low- and middle-income countries following appropriate regulatory approvals,” said Merck and the patent pool in a joint release.

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It was not immediately clear whether pharmaceutical companies in the Caribbean would be among those in line to produce the pill under the licence agreement.

A recent study of molnupiravir showed that it cut hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in half, Merck said earlier this month.

Dr St John said: “So the monoclonal antibodies which are in use already and then the antiviral pills from Merck, we are looking at those once we get the approval to recommend their use in the CARICOM region.”

Molnupiravir, which is still awaiting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), works by blocking the ability of the coronavirus to replicate. If approved, it will be the first COVID-19 treatment in the form of a pill.

Some countries are currently using the monoclonal antibodies, which are administered intravenously or by injection, to treat high-risk COVID-19 positive patients.

Dr St John, a former Chief Medical Officer of Barbados, said no one should expect things to go back to what it was prior to the pandemic, adding that the health sector and all other sectors should start “reengineering their process so that they can live safely with COVID”.

Adding that technology will be critical going forward, Dr St John said it was critical for rapt attention to be paid to addressing the scourge of non-communicable diseases.

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