Merck, the maker of molnupiravir – which is still under review by Health Canada – announced Monday it has reached an agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific in Whitby to manufacture its treatment.
Marwan Akar, president and CEO of Merck Canada Inc., told reporters at a press conference that Thermo Fisher manufactures molnupiravir for distribution in Canada and the UK, as well as countries in Europe, d ‘Asia-Pacific and Latin America, pending approvals in these regions.
“Make no mistake, vaccines remain our main and first line of defense, but we need new tools in the toolkit, and antivirals allow us to do that,” Akar said. “This is another way to fight this pandemic, to help save lives, to accelerate the recovery of patients and to avoid hospitalizations. “
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Akar said the Whitby facility is “operational” and that Merck is doing “everything we can” to supply countries with molnupiravir.
“The inventory is there and it’s ready to ship once we get approval,” he said. “We will also continue to manufacture for future supply. “
Merck’s announcement follows the federal government’s recent agreement with the company to purchase 500,000 cycles of its molnupiravir treatment, with an option to add another 500,000 pending approval.
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The federal government also announced an agreement with Pfizer to purchase one million courses of its oral antiviral therapy, PF-07321332, pending Health Canada approval.
“As soon as these drugs are approved, the government will work to get them to the provinces and territories as quickly as possible so that health care providers can help Canadians who need it most,” Filomena Tassi, Minister of Public services and contracting said Friday.
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Merck’s pill is still under review by Health Canada as the company continues its ongoing submission.
Recently, Merck shared data suggesting that its drug was significantly less effective than previously thought, reducing hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk people by around 30%.
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The treatment has received approval in the UK.
Cardiologist and epidemiologist Dr Christopher Labos previously told Global News that antiviral pills could potentially limit the strain of COVID-19 on the Canadian healthcare system by reducing the effects of the virus, but they do not prevent the problem. .
“It only addresses the problem,” he said. “In terms of epidemic prevention, vaccines are clearly the best course of action. “
Throughout the pandemic, the federal government has attempted to strengthen its national production capacities to help fight COVID-19.
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Earlier this year, the government announced agreements with Moderna and Novavax to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Canada. Moderna plans to build its own plant in Canada by 2024, and the federal government has pledged a new National Research Council $ 126 million to build a biologics production plant in Montreal to produce a vaccine for Novavax.
François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said on Monday that the investments will improve Canada’s response to the pandemic.
“We did not choose the time of this pandemic, we will not choose when the next one will happen, but we can choose and we choose as Canadians to be ready for whatever may happen next,” he said. -he declares. “We are outsourcing manufacturing, we are expanding the ecosystem and we are bringing investments to Canada. “
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Omar Khan, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto, told Global News Canada has the talent to produce drugs, like the Merck pill, to fight COVID-19.
“(With) that being recognized, it makes for a great place to make this,” he said. “It’s also wonderful for Canada to take a further step forward in terms of care and treatment options for this disease here at home, so it’s going to be very important as we move forward just because we’re adding to the solution. ”
– with files from Reuters and Eric Stober from Global News
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