Opinion and Editorial

Finally, a Covid anti-viral pill, but get those jabs

Filed on October 4, 2021 | Last updated on October 4, 2021 at 12.15 am
AFP fileit

People need not fear the virus anymore, but it’s important to get jabbed at the earliest as the drug is likely to be available globally only by early next year

It has been proven that vaccines work against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, but it has remained a mystery why an anti-viral pill took so long to see the light of day. Last week, however, news that pharma major Merck’s pill against Covid cuts hospitalisations by half has enthused scientists and the medical fraternity. It could mean that the pandemic’s end could be sooner than predicted. The company has sought emergency use of authorisation of the drug in the United States as the results in trials have astounded researchers. Peer review, though, is yet to be conducted but the pharma firm is confident that the pill helps cure the infection if administered early in patients.

However, vaccines remain the first line of defence against the virus until the pill is available for mass treatment and can be prescribed by doctors. The company claims it can deliver 10 million of these affordable pills by the end of the year which should give a fresh impetus in the fight against the disease. Importantly, these pills can be sent to developing countries in Africa and Asia as vaccine supplies are yet to pick up due to transportation and storage issues. The advantage of these pills is that they offer a cure at a low cost. The combination of preventive care offered by a range of vaccines and treatment using the pill could further slow the spread of the virus that has claimed 5 million lives in 20 months. A global endemic stage can be envisaged soon as vaccine supplies are being ramped up and drug-makers like Roche and Pfizer are also experimenting with a range of treatments.

Merck developed the oral drug named molnupiravir with partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and found during trials that it also cut the risk of death by half. What’s more encouraging is that the drug is effective against all Covid variants, including Delta that is now the dominant strain across the world. This means that people need not fear the virus anymore, but it’s important to get jabbed at the earliest as the drug is likely to be available globally only by early next year. The company is sewing licensing deals with partners across the world in the coming months. It has already entered into partnerships with several drugmakers in India. Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government authority on infectious diseases, called the results as ‘very good news.’ All eyes are now on the US Food and Drug Administration. Indications are that they are moving with alacrity. It’s important to give them time to review the results of the trials. Should we celebrate yet? Yes, but get the vaccine and keep wearing those masks.

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