(CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says it stands ready to support the approval for recommendation of treatments against the coronavirus (COVID-19), including the use of the drug Molnupiravir.
But CARPHA executive director, Dr Joy St John, says such recommendations will be based on approval it receives from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The announcement comes a day after the drug-maker Merck & Co said it would license qualified pharmaceutical firms worldwide to produce the oral medication under an agreement with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patents Pool.
“This agreement will help create broad access for molnupiravir use in 105 low- and middle-income countries following appropriate regulatory approvals,” said Merck and the patent pool in a joint release.
A recent study of Molnupiravir showed that it cut hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19 in half, Merck said earlier this month.
“So the monoclonal antibodies which are in use already and then the antiviral pills from Merck, we are looking at those once we get the approval to recommend their use in the CARICOM region,” Dr St John told a panel debate that included senior health officials from Barbados, St Lucia and Grenada.
Molnupiravir, which is still awaiting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), works by blocking the ability of the coronavirus to replicate. If approved, it will be the first COVID-19 treatment in the form of a pill.
Dr St John, a former chief medical officer of Barbados, said no one should expect things to go back to what it was prior to the pandemic, adding that the health sector and all other sectors should start “reengineering their process so that they can live safely with COVID”.
She said that while measures being undertaken had to be as “sophisticated as possible” in dealing with the treatment of the virus, the way forward in the fight against COVID-19 also included better vaccination coverage.
The CARPHA executive director said that the virus highlighted a number of areas that were wrong with the health sectors across the region, and the need for a re-engineering of the processes so that citizens could live safely with it.
“We have to look at re-engineering our services, our sectors, and that is going to need some regional strengthening, including the strengthening of our information technology system and bandwidth [because] we still have to look at more virtual activities,” she added.