Egypt could manufacture Merck COVID-19 drug in a month: Presidential health adviser

Ahram Online , Wednesday 22 Dec 2021

Presidential Adviser for Health Affairs Mohamed Awad Tag El-Din announced on Tuesday evening that Egypt may locally manufacture COVID-19 treatment pills developed by giant pharmaceutical company Merck in a matter of a month or so.

Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics antiviral medication molnupiravir. Merck Co. via AP

“Egypt has agreed with a company to start clinical trials for the drug… and if it shows efficacy in treating coronavirus cases with mild symptoms and reducing hospitalisations, intensive care unit admissions, and deaths rates, the state will [release it for public consumption],” Tag El-Din said in a phone interview with Sada El-Balad satellite channel.

The presidential adviser said Merck has permitted developing countries to produce its oral treatment, which received emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late November.

Merck’s drug, ‘Molnupiravir’, is currently being used in the United Kingdom to treat patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms and has shown a 30 percent efficacy rate in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.

The presidential official said that the health authorities will be waiting for the approval of the Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) in order to regulate the use of the drug.

Egypt is also following up on Pfizer’s COVID-19 pills, the second drug approved by the FDA in December, Tag El-Din noted.

Furthermore, in mid-December, the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement, Medical Supply, and Technology Management (UPA) signed a procurement agreement with AstraZeneca for the recently authorised long-acting antibody combination ‘Evusheld’.

AstraZeneca’s Evusheld, which is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies — Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab — was also granted an emergency use authorisation by the FDA on 8 December.

Egypt has so far detected 377,081 coronavirus infections — including three recently detected Omicron variant cases — and recorded 21,457 deaths and 313,782 recoveries.

COVID-19 infection and death rates in Egypt, propelled by the pandemic’s fourth wave, have been fluctuating over the past two months.

The fourth wave has not reached its peak yet, Tag El-Din asserted, assuring that the situation in Egypt is under control and that the country has tightened its pandemic-related safety measures at ports and hospitals.

According to the adviser, nearly 50 million people in Egypt have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday.

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