By Shermain Bique-Charles
“Prevention is better than cure.” That is the old adage that the head of the Pharmacy Council believes is important to remember when discussing Covid-19 anti-viral pills.
Michael Joseph explained that the body is in no rush to follow the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which, on December 23, authorised Merck’s antiviral pill, molnupiravir, to treat Covid-19 “for the treatment of mild-to-moderate coronavirus disease in adults with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe Covid-19, including hospitalisation or death, and for whom alternative Covid-19 treatment options authorised by the FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate”.
However, Joseph said, “I don’t think at this point in time we really should be relying on treatment as much as prevention,” explaining that data (number of deaths and hospitalisations on the Ministry of Health’s dashboard) shows that the vaccine is working.
Like Merck, the Pharmacy Council head says that authorising Pfizer’s antiviral pill is also “not on the agenda”, because “this approval was quite recent so we haven’t had any formal request to allow the importation or to approve it. And while, yes, we do note that the FDA has approved it, there is also some scientific data that is quite worrisome”.
He said that a number of safety concerns have been raised and before approving the pill the council will need additional data to weigh the benefits against the risks.
Molnupiravir is the second Covid-19 antiviral pill authorised for affected people to take at home, before they get sick enough to be hospitalised. Merck has an agreement with the US government for the company to supply 3.1 million courses of molnupiravir upon this authorisation.
Molnupiravir was narrowly recommended by the FDA’s advisers in a 13-10 vote at the end of November after data showed it cut the risk of hospitalisation or death by 30 percent among high-risk adults. This was lower than an earlier analysis suggesting that number could be about 50 percent.
High-risk individuals aged 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds and have a positive SARS-CoV-2 test are eligible for this treatment and will need to have it prescribed by a doctor.