The first batch of Molnupiravir is available in mainland hospitals as a new option for COVID-19 patients

Molnupiravir Photo: VCG

Molnupiravir Photo: VCG

The first batch of Molnupiravir, an antiviral drug developed by the US company Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), has become available in two hospitals across the Chinese mainland as a new option for COVID-19 patients.

Over the past weekend, the first batch of Molnupiravir was delivered to several hospitals in Beijing, Shanghai, south China’s Guangdong Province, and southwest China’s Sichuan Province after the drug, developed by MSD and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, won conditional market approval in China. Mainland on December 29, 2022.

So far, three oral antivirals for COVID-19 — Pfizer’s Paxlovid, Azvudine developed in China by Genuine Biotech, and Molnupiravir — are available on the Chinese market.

Sinopharm, the exclusive importer and distributor of the drug in mainland China, held a launch ceremony for Molnupiravir at a warehouse in Shanghai’s Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone on Friday.

With Sinopharm’s national distribution network and integrated control advantages, the first batch of hundreds of thousands of medicine packages have been delivered to leading hospitals including Peking University First Hospital in Beijing, East Shanghai Hospital affiliated to Tongji University, Tianjin First Central Hospital and First Hospital. Chengdu Fifth People’s and Third People’s Hospital in Shenzhen.

According to the National Medical Products Administration of China, Molnupiravir capsules are small molecule oral therapies for COVID-19 for the treatment of mild to moderate adult patients who have a high risk of progression to severe disease. These include high-risk patients such as obesity or overweight, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, severe cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

According to Lu Hongzhou, chief of Shenzhen Third People’s Hospital, Molnupiravir has proven effective and safe when used at an early stage after infection.

Compared with Pfizer’s Paxlovid, which can interact with a lot of drugs, Molnupiravir has an advantage in treating the elderly, who often have underlying illnesses and complications that must be treated with several other drugs, Lu told the Global Times on Sunday.

The first batch of molnopiravir was reportedly delivered to Lu Hospital on Saturday morning.

According to a notification issued by the Tianjin Medical Procurement Center on January 10, the first batch of Molnupiravir is priced at 1,500 yuan ($222) per bottle. Sinopharm has been working closely with MSD to promote supplies and has formulated plans for national imports, warehousing and delivery to meet the needs of people’s medical and health institutions in various places during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday.

Molnupiravir received its first approval on 4 November 2021 in the United Kingdom for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults with a positive diagnostic test for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 and who have at least one risk factor for serious illness.

It has obtained marketing authorization or emergency use authorization in more than 40 countries or regions including the United States, Japan, and members of the European Union.

With the increase in infections, especially among the elderly, there is a growing demand for oral medications to treat COVID-19. The launch of Molnupiravir in China is expected to expand the supply of oral medicines for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, more drugs for COVID-19 are ramping up their market entry.

According to Lu, a number of oral drugs are currently in the second or third phase of clinical trials, and it is expected that several domestically developed oral drugs will be completed in practical clinical trials and put on the market soon.

3CL drug targeting anti-SARS-CoV-2 SIM0417, jointly developed by Nanjing-based Simcere Pharmaceutical Group, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and Wuhan Institute of Virology, is expected to be approved for market in February, the Jiangsu Medicines Administration announced. in late December 2022.

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