Aussies to get Merck’s oral COVID-19 treatment soon

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  • Merck’s oral pill is in the race to join Australia’s fight against COVID-19 once given provisional approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
  • The government anticipates TGA to evaluate the drug late this year and possibly give approval in early 2022.
  • Once approved, Molnupiravir will be the oral drug to be used for COVID-19.

Australians will soon have access to a promising oral treatment for COVID-19 as the country race to fight against COVID-19. On 4 October 2021, Australia PM Scott Morrison announced that the government had secured 300,000 courses of the promising COVID-19 treatment Molnupiravir. Molnupiravir is an oral antiviral drug developed by Merck Sharp & Dohme (NYSE:MRK) and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Mr Morrison highlighted that once the treatment is authorised by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration), Molnupiravir would be in the mainline of defence against COVID-19.

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Merck’s oral COVID-19 pill to arrive in Australia early next-year

Once provisional approval by the Australian regulator, TGA, will be received Merck’s drug would join COVID-19 other vaccines, the antibody treatment (sotrovimab) and the antiviral drug (remdesivir) on the front line of the country’s fight against COVID-19.

Additionally, Merck’s drug Molnupiravir is meant for oral administration; therefore, injection would not be required. This further reduces pressure on the health system and will help provide quick access to treatment options in remote parts.

The government anticipates Merck to apply for provisional determination shortly and for the TGA to evaluate the drug late this year and potentially give approval in early 2022. As a result, Merck’s oral COVID-19 drug shipments would arrive early next year in Australia. However, neither the government nor the Company has disclosed any pricing details so far.

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Molnupiravir showed promising results

The US-based drug maker Merck domestically known as MSD Australia disclosed positive results from the trial of oral antiviral drug molnupiravir. The Company highlighted the outcome of the trial shows molnupiravir substantially reducing the risk of severe infection. Similar to other antiviral drugs, Merck’s oral COVID-19 treatment works by impeding the ability of the virus to copy its genetic code and replicate.

It is prescribed for 5 days, 2 times a day, to reduce the risk of deaths and hospitalisation. It is best when taken within 5 days of developing symptoms.

RELATED READ: Merck/Ridgeback’s COVID-19 oral drug shows promising Phase 2 data

The Company also intends to pursue EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) in the US as soon as possible and submit applications to other regulatory authorities.

Besides, Merck anticipates manufacturing almost 10 million doses of its antiviral treatment by 2021, with more dosages likely to be manufactured in 2022.

Furthermore, several other pharmaceutical players, including Pfizer Inc (NASDAQ:PFE) and Roche, are investigating similar drugs for COVID-19 treatment and could report findings in the upcoming months.

Other COVID-19 treatments in Australia

The country has already authorised Remdesivir and Sotrovimab for the use of COVID-19 treatments.

Source: © Michalsuszycki |

  • Sotrovimab is a novel monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 and was authorised for use in Australia by the TGA in August 2021.
  • Remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed by Gilead Sciences, has been available in the country since mid-2020. Remdesivir is used for the treatment of severe COVID-19 patients.

On 4 October, the Australian government announced that it had increased the deliveries of sotrovimab with over 15,000 additional doses arriving in the country in upcoming days. The government highlighted that securing additional supplies of sotrovimab will provide access to an early treatment option for Australians that will support the country in managing COVID-19.

Bottom Line

Once approved Molnupiravir will be the first oral drug for the treatment of COVID-19 and join the other two COVID-19 treatments currently being used in Australia. The ongoing vaccination drive and the addition of new COVID-19 treatment would increase Australia’s plan to reopen the country safely. 

Furthermore, the Australian government will proactively engage with drug developers to offer Australians safe and effective TGA approved COVID-19 treatments.

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