Egypt approves Merck's antiviral COVID-19 drug Molnupiravir for emergency use

Ahram Online , Monday 24 Jan 2022

The Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) issued on Monday an emergency use authorisation for Merck’s COVID-19 drug Molnupiravir and has allowed five national companies to manufacture the oral antiviral as a first stage.


The EDA said in a statement that more companies, currently under assessment, would manufacture the drug by the US pharmaceutical company.

In a separate statement by the health ministry, head of the EDA Tamer Essam pointed out that local companies “have so far succeeded in producing 25,000 Molnupiravir packages, with the availability of raw materials sufficient to manufacture about 150,000 additional packages”.

Egypt is the first country in Africa and the Middle East, and the fourth globally to provide the anti-coronavirus drug Molnupiravir, acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar.

The Molnupiravir has obtained emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), as the first capsules to be taken orally to treat coronavirus, Essam said adding that it can decrease hospitalisations and deaths by half for patients suffering from mild to moderate coronavirus illness.

Molnupiravir can cut hospitalisations and deaths by 30 percent among people at high risk of COVID-19, according to Merck.

Molnupiravir will only be allowed inside hospitals to make sure it is taken under full medical supervision and in accordance with the standards set by the relevant scientific committees to ensure continuous therapeutic follow-up, the EDA said in its statement.

In remarks to local newspaper El-Masry El-Youm on Monday, Health Ministry Spokesperson Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar said Egypt is expected to receive AstraZeneca’s Evusheld coronavirus antibody required to treat 50,000 patients.

Early in January, the spokesperson said Egypt was expected to also receive Pfizer’s Paxlovid pills required for the treatment of 20,000 coronavirus patients by the end of the month.

While Paxlovid and Molnupiravir pills are both used to treat cases with mild-to-moderate symptoms during the early days of infection, Evusheld is meant to prevent coronavirus infections.

Some studies have found that when taken in the early days of infection, Paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death by up to 89 percent.

Egypt's import of the coronavirus drugs comes while the country is suffering from a significant surge in coronavirus cases, with health officials announcing that Omicron has become the dominant coronavirus variant nationwide.

The World Health Organisation said earlier this month that although Omicron is less severe than the Delta strain but it still poses a danger, especially for unvaccinated people.

The health ministry has urged citizens to register to receive the coronavirus vaccine, as it is the most effective way to reduce deaths and severe infections.

In the current wave of the pandemic in Egypt, unvaccinated people are 65 times more likely to be hospitalised due to COVID-19 compared to those who received two vaccine shots and 260 times more likely to be hospitalised compared to those who received a booster shot, according to data released by the health ministry on 15 January.

Egypt has so far imported about 132 million doses of various coronavirus vaccines and has opened 1,393 vaccination centres, the acting health minister said in a meeting with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and top health officials last week.

The country has also administered around 60.5 million vaccine doses, including first and second shots, as well as half a million booster shots, Abdel-Ghaffar noted.

Moreover, around 206,000 doses have been administered to children aged 12 to 15, while about 1.4 million shots have been given to teenagers aged 15 to 18.

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