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News Article

Oral Treatments, Vaccines Join Fight Against COVID-19

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 11/24/2021 - 15:08

While COVID-19 vaccines have taken the spotlight, pharmaceuticals are have also poured time and effort into the development of treatments for the disease. To date, several pharmaceuticals have introduced oral medications that complement vaccination campaigns in the fight against the pandemic.

Pfizer, for example, has developed the oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid, which “was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent compared to placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19,” said the company in an official press release. Pfizer highlighted that no deaths were reported among patients who received Paxlovid in the 28 days the study lasted, in comparison to 10 deaths in patients who received placebo.

Merck also developed an oral antiviral treatment, Molnupiravir, which halves the chances of dying or being hospitalized for severe COVID-19 illness, according to interim clinical trials. This drug could innovate how the virus is treated, according to Merck. Clinical trials, which included 775 patients, indicated that 7.3 percent of those given molnupiravir were hospitalized, compared with 14.1 percent of patients who were given a placebo. While there were no deaths in the molnupiravir group, eight patients who were given a placebo during the trial later died of COVID-19.

Both Pfizer and Merck have allied with the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), to allow developing economies to manufacture and distribute these pills at a reduced cost. Merck was the first to sign an MPP agreement, which will allow companies in 105 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, to sublicense molnupiravir and begin its production as soon as the clinical research data is analyzed by WHO.

Other developments that could help fight an endemic COVID-19 are oral vaccinations. Mexican company Genomma Lab allied with Israeli pharmaceutical company Oramed to manufacture and sell its COVID-19 oral vaccine Oravax in Mexico. The single dose vaccine was developed in partnership with India’s Premas Biotech using its vaccine technology and Oramed’s “POD” technology. In March, it was announced that Oravax had successfully generated antibodies in pigs. Through its partnership with the Mexican laboratory, Oramed hopes to speed up the vaccination’s approval process.

To date, the WHO has approved eight vaccines against COVID-19; Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), AstraZeneca/Oxford, Serum Institute of India: Covishield (Oxford/AstraZeneca formulation), Bharat Biotech: Covaxin, Sinopharm, Sinovac.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst