Australia has closed a deal for 300,000 courses of an antiviral pill that is showing promising signs of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations.
Molnupiravir is still being tested in the US and has not yet received regulatory authorization.
But the federal government has struck an agreement with drug companies Merck Sharp and Dohme to supply 300,000 courses if the pill is given the green light by Australia’s drug regulator.
It can be made available by the first quarter of 2022.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the drug would join other COVID-19 treatments including sotrovimab and remdesivir already available in Australia.
“While our vaccination rates continue to climb, we are investing and monitoring closely in research into COVID-19 treatments and we are securing a supply of promising treatments,” he said.
Molnupiravir is taken twice a day for five days by adults with mild or moderate disease. It does not need to be refrigerated.
In August the Therapeutic Goods Administration gave the pill a “provisional determination”, the first step in applying to register the pill for use in Australia.
A final application is expected to be submitted shortly.
This follows trials announced by Merck that showed molnupiravir reduced hospitalizations and deaths by about 50 percent.
Australia also received 15,000 additional doses of sotrovimab, an antibody treatment used to prevent the virus from replicating.
The national stockpile of the drug, administered by intravenous infusion within five days after symptoms developed, is expected to exceed 30,000 doses this year.
It has been shown to reduce hospitalization or death in patients with mild or moderate infections and who are at high risk of severe disease.
Vaccines to fight the coronavirus remain Australia’s first port of call, with the country expected to hit an 80 percent first-dose rate for more than 16 this week.
Currently, 56.9 percent are double-dose, with 79.6 percent receiving their first dose.
Adrian Esterman, an epidemiologist at the University of South Australia, stressed the importance of new treatments.
“There hasn’t been much emphasis on research into treatments since the start of this pandemic,” he told the AAP.
“Even with 100 percent of the population fully vaccinated, the virus will still be spreading because no vaccine is 100 percent effective against transmission.”
Victoria reported new 1377 local cases and four deaths as Melbourne became the world’s most closed city after 246 days of stay-at-home orders.
NSW recorded 623 new cases and six people died in a week before the planned end of the lockdown for fully vaccinated residents.
That state has given a double dose to 67.5 percent of the population age 16 and older, while Victoria has a 52.6 percent full vaccination rate.
The ACT recorded 28 new cases and two more deaths, bringing Canberra’s death toll to eight since the start of the pandemic.
Queensland recorded one new infection in the community.
Its absolute vaccination rate of 48.7 percent is the second lowest in the country, ahead of Western Australia (48.5 percent).
This News Originally From – The Epoch Times