Beximco Pharma begins production of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

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Dhaka, Nov 09: Beximco Pharmaceuticals has launched production of the generic version of US drug maker Merck & Co’s experimental pill to treat COVID-19.

The company officially launched production of the oral antiviral drug molnupiravir, for symptomatic COVID-19 on Tuesday, after receiving the authorisation from the Directorate General of Drug Administration.

The pill will be marketed as Emorivir, according to a statement from Beximco Pharma.

More companies are awaiting approval in Bangladesh after Merck signed a deal that will allow the drug to be manufactured and sold cheaply in poor nations.

In addition to Beximco, Square, Eskayef, Incepta, General Pharma, Beacon Pharma and Renata, three other companies have applied to the Directorate General of Drug Administration for approval.

On Nov 4, Britain was the first country in the world to approve the potential antiviral pill developed jointly by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, both based in the US.

Molnupiravir is currently under review by several other regulatory authorities, including the European Medicines Agency and the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Unlike vaccination, the pill can be administered at home and may reduce the need for infected patients to visit medical facilities, therefore reducing COVID-19 transmission, Beximco says.

Data published by MSD suggest that the pill may cut the risk of hospitalisation and death by half, the Beximco statement says adding that 7.3% of molnupiravir patients were hospitalised after 29 days compared to 14.1% of patients who were treated with a placebo.

Molnupiravir works by interfering with the replication of the virus. This prevents it from multiplying, keeping virus levels low in the body and therefore reducing the severity of the disease, Beximco says.

Nazmul Hassan, the managing director of Beximco Pharmaceuticals said the first launch of a generic version of molnupiravir is a great achievement for the company.