EU and US pre-purchase Covid-19 drugs

Like vaccines, the US and the European Union (EU) have signed contracts to purchase many Covid-19 drugs that are still in the experimental stage.

Europe on July 28 said it had reached an agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), purchasing more than 220,000 doses of Sotrovimab, belonging to the monoclonal antibody group. The drug, co-developed with the US company Vir Biotechnology, can be used to treat Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms who do not need oxygen.

The contract helps GSK promote research on Sotrovimab, after having not achieved much success in vaccine development. Instead of creating its own vaccine, the company has focused on providing a booster dose to pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

GSK said the July 28 agreement was “an important step forward for the treatment of Covid-19 patients in the EU”.

Sotrovimab has received urgent approval in the US, which is being evaluated by the EU Medicines Agency (EMA). In the United States, the drug is used to treat patients with mild to moderate disease who have underlying medical conditions and are often prone to severe disease.

Under the agreement, 16 out of 27 EU countries can buy Sotrovimab if the drug is approved by the EMA. The cost per dose has not been disclosed. A spokesman for the European Commission declined to comment on the matter.

Gilead’s Covid-19 treatment drug Remdesivir, used in the US, December 2020. Photo: AP

Earlier, the EU successfully signed a contract with Swiss “pharmaceutical giant” Roche, to buy 55,000 doses of Regeneron antibody mixture. Europe also pre-orders Gilead’s antiviral drug Remdesivir.

The US has a similar move. On June 9, the country completed a $1.2 billion agreement with the pharmaceutical company Merck. The company will provide 1.7 million courses of Molnupiravir treatment. Similar to Tamiflu for the flu, this is an antiviral drug used in the early stages of Covid-19.

As vaccines reduce the number of nCoV infections, doctors still need treatments for patients. Molnupiravir is in a terminal study in non-hospitalized subjects with at least one risk factor for severe progression. Merck is expected to release test data in September or October, possibly applying for a license this year.

Clinical results in April showed that the drug reduced viral load in mild patients, but was not effective enough to prevent hospitalization and death. The drug does not work on people with severe nCoV infection.

Thuc Linh (Follow Reuters)


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