May 19, 2024

Health Ministry Gives Approval for Merck’s Anti-COVID Pill

3 min read

On Sunday, the Health Ministry of Israel announced that it has given approval for the anti-COVID pill from Merck. This news comes two weeks after the medication had received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. According to the ministry, they had signed a deal with Merck for purchasing molnupiravir, which is currently being sold under the name of Lagevrio. The first shipment of the pill was expected to arrive in Israel in the coming days, but the ministry did not disclose the number of pills they had bought.

Israel news reported that they had bought enough pills that could be used for treating several thousand patients and also had an option to buy more. The report suggested that the price tag of the treatment could be $700 per patient, which would make it costlier than a similar medicine made by Pfizer, which has also been purchased by Israel. But, it is important to note that the effectiveness of Merck’s pill is less than that of Pfizer’s when it comes to treating COVID. It has to be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms. Furthermore,the pill is capable of reducing hospitalizations as well as deaths associated with COVID by almost 30% amongst at-risk individuals.

This conclusion was made via a trial that involved 1,400 participants. The same outcomes were also reduced by Pfizer’s pill, but by nearly 90%. Moreover, it is also authorized for people aged 12 and above and its overall safety concerns are also fewer. Overall, clinical trials showed that both of the treatments were generally tolerated quite well, but there were more concerns associated with Merck’s pill. It has not been authorized by the FDA for those under the age of 18, as it could have an impact on cartilage and bone growth. In addition, it is also not recommended for use in pregnant women because it could harm the fetus.

This had been identified through animal testing, but doctors can still conclude that its benefits do outweigh the risks. The FDA had convened independent experts who had narrowly voted in giving approval for the pill back in early December. These potential risks had been highlighted by those who had voted ‘no’. The FDA had stressed in its authorization letter that it should only be used in th absence of other appropriate alternatives or options. There can be adverse reactions of Pfizer’s medication if it is mixed with some other medications.

Plus, it is also not recommended for those suffering from liver or kidney impairment. The initial data of Merck’s pill had been more encouraging, indicating a 50% reduction in severe cases of the coronavirus, but this figure was later reduced to 30% after the final analysis of more cases. 40 capsules have to be taken spread over five days, meaning 8 pills each. The molecule incorporates itself into the virus’ genomes, which leads to mutations that can prevent replication of the viral. Previously, Denmark and Britain had given their approval for the drug.

Last Thursday, Israel had received its first shipment of the Pfizer pill named Paxlovid. This makes it one of the first countries in the world to receive the medication. Several ten thousands of pills were included in the shipment. The drug is said to cost around $530 per patient. On Sunday, the Health Ministry had authorized the drug’s emergency useto combat the coronavirus in Israel. News indicated that Israel was also talking to AstraZeneca about purchasing its new coronavirus antibody drug.

Pills that people can purchase at pharmacies with a prescription would give health care systems a major boost in the fight against the coronavirus. In addition, they should also be variant-proof because they do not target the spike protein the marks the surface of the virus, which is always mutating. According to the companies, they have confirmed this by testing it against Omicron.

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