New Delhi: Emergency Use Authorisation for the Merck drug Molnupiravir — an oral antiviral medicine for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 — is likely “within days”, Dr Ram Vishwakarma, Chairman of the Covid Strategy Group, CSIR, told sources on Wednesday.
The medicine is meant for adults who are at risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 or hospitalization. Another pill from Pfizer, Paxlovid, may take some more time, he added.
The two drugs, he said, will make a difference and “as we move from pandemic to endemic, these are the ones which are going to be more important than vaccination”.
Calling the drugs the “final nail in the coffin of the virus by science”, he said, “I think Molnupiravir will be already available to us. Five companies are sitting with the drug manufacturer… I think any day we will have approval of Molnupiravir”.
Data for Molnupiravir has been “sitting with the regulator” here before the UK regulator’s approval, he said. “So already SECs are looking at it. And I think they will they will get faster approval now. And therefore, it would it be safe to say that within the next one month, there would be a decision on approval for the Merck drug”.
Pfizer has said according to clinical trial, its Paxlovid cuts the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89 per cent in vulnerable adults.
Merck has already contracted five companies “and the way Merck has given this license to several companies, Pfizer will also do because Pfizer will have to utilise the Indian capacity to manufacture the drugs that are required for the global use”.
The cost, he said, will be far lower than the 700 dollars that’s being considered in the US for the Merck vaccine “because in America it is costly for various other reasons and not for the manufacturing cost”.
“I think here when the government of India comes into play, they will buy in bulk from these companies and of course, they will have a dual pricing system and a staggered pricing system,” he said.
He said it might initially cost “2000 to 3000 or 4000 rupees per cycle of treatment, then it will come down to 500 to 600 or 1,000 rupees”.