03 March 2022 | Statements

Unitaid statement on WHO guidelines for COVID-19 antiviral molnupiravir

Geneva – Unitaid today welcomes the conditional recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the use of molnupiravir to treat adult patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 at highest risk of developing severe forms of the disease.

Oral outpatient treatments are potential gamechangers in the management of COVID-19. They are critical in the global response to the pandemic, with a potential to save lives and ease the pressure on healthcare systems, and an important step toward realizing the promise of test-and-treat strategies in decentralized settings.

Molnupiravir is the first oral antiviral for non-hospitalized mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients to be recommended by WHO, bringing an additional treatment option to the COVID-19 clinical care package.

When administered in early stages of the infection for a full five-day course, the antiviral medicine – developed by MSD in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics – can avert progression to severe illness and reduce the risk of hospital admission and time to resolve symptoms. The WHO recommendation flags the need to address this medicine’s contraindications to ensure appropriate use.

The newly recommended treatment is a significant step for the groundwork Unitaid and partners have laid to rapidly introduce new treatments and adequate testing in low- and middle-income countries. This global effort is being carried out through the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator’s therapeutics pillar, with partners including the Global Fund, UNICEF, Unitaid and WHO.

Working closely with the Medicines Patent Pool, originator and generic companies, the ACT-Accelerator therapeutics pillar has secured agreements to ensure rapid and affordable access to molnupiravir, preparing for a robust generic supply base for more than 100 low- and middle-income countries.

But strong, continuous support is needed to address the remaining gaps in access to new therapeutics in low- and middle-income countries. That means supporting production of generic versions of medicines, and ensuring that systems are in place for these products to be promptly prequalified and adopted.

Additional promising oral outpatient therapeutics for COVID-19 are in the pipeline. A second oral antiviral, nirmatrelvir/ritonavir, and other compounds including fluvoxamine, are under assessment by WHO.

Media contact:

Sarah Mascheroni

Communications officer

Email: mascheronisa@who.int

Mobile: +41 79 728 73 11

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