In a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has given the green light for molnupiravir pills to be used in the treatment of patients.
The Covid-19 treatment pill was approved on Thursday after phase 2 and 3 clinical trials showed it reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death.
Molnupiravir is only authorised for use in patients aged 18 years and older.
The authorisation is for a limited quantity of 200mg capsules (lagevrio) and is initially limited to a period of six months.
“The authorisation of molnupiravir for compassionate use offers further therapy in the fight against Covid-19,” said Sahpra CEO Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela.
“Sahpra will continue to play its part in ensuring the quality, safety and efficacy of all health products, including innovative treatments, so the public is protected at all times.”
How does molnupiravir work?
Molnupiravir directly muddles with the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2. The medicine confuses the coronavirus while it is copying itself because the drug’s chemical structure looks similar to that of a molecule the virus needs in the copying process.
The pills don’t replace vaccines but are an addition to available medicine treatment to help manage the virus.
If taken within five days after the first Covid-19 symptoms, it can, among other things, lower the risk of hospitalisation by 30% in unvaccinated and high-risk Covid-19 patients.
The pill can also reduce the risk of dying from Covid-19 by 89%, according to research.
Can pregnant women take it?
The pill is not recommended for pregnant women, said Sahpra.
“As studies in animals have shown reproductive toxicity, lagevrio is not recommended during pregnancy.
“Women of childbearing potential should use effective contraception for the duration of treatment and for four days after the last dose of lagevrio,” said the regulator.
Is molnupiravir for sale?
No price for SA has been announced.
Speaking to Reuters, health department deputy director-general Nicholas Crisp said government was not planning to buy the treatment pill.
Crisp said an evaluation score from the National Essential Medicines List Committee indicated the pill would not be cost-effective.
“We are not planning to procure molnupiravir,” he said, adding that the private sector can buy any amount approved by Sahpra since medicines are not like vaccines, which are only sold to governments.