Antiviral pill offers new hope against COVID 

6 October 2021

The Australian Government has ordered 300,000 doses of a new antiviral pill that has shown signs of slashing COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisations by around 50 per cent, SBS reports.

Molnupiravir, developed and produced by American Pharmaceutical giant Merck Sharp & Dohme, is currently in late-stage clinical trials.

Molnupiravir has been developed as a first-line treatment for adult coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

The drug company earlier announced trial results showing the treatment reduced hospitalisations and deaths by around 50 per cent.

Should it be approved by the TGA for use in Australia, it is expected the drug will be made available from early 2022.

Other COVID-19 treatments like Sotrovimab and Remdesivir are already being used by medical professionals for COVID-19 patients.

A treatment of Molnupiravir consists of capsules taken twice a day for five days by adult patients.

The drug does not require refrigeration, allowing it to be used by individuals or in high-risk locations.

Meanwhile, Australia has received 15,000 additional doses of the antibody treatment sotrovimab, which is used to stop the virus replicating.

The national stockpile of the drug, administered by intravenous infusion within five days of patients developing symptoms, is expected to exceed 30,000 doses this year.

It has been shown to reduce hospitalisation or death in patients with mild or moderate infections and who are at high risk of severe illness.

While vaccines remain the first port of call for beating coronavirus, University of South Australia epidemiologist Adrian Esterman has emphasised the importance of finding new treatments.

"There has been not much emphasis placed on research into treatment since the start of this pandemic," he told SBS.

"Even with 100 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, there will still be virus circulating because none of the vaccines is 100 per cent effective against transmission."

At the same time, ensuring the world is vaccinated will drastically reduce the severity of the disease and the need for treatment.

"It's early days yet for the treatments and we're still waiting for many of the trials to complete to see what other treatments are potentially helpful against coronavirus," Professor Esterman said.

"Over the next few years, we can see ongoing improvements in vaccine technology, in particular to handle these different variants, and this could be a constant battle between new variants of vaccines."