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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

November 1, 2021 by Anna Kovacevich

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Pharmaceutical company Merck has announced an agreement to share its license for the oral COVID-19 drug molnupiravir with the United Nations–backed Medicines Patent Pool to expand access to the treatment in more than 100 countries. Molnupiravir, an easy-to-take pill, reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half among higher-risk COVID-19 patients diagnosed with mild to moderate illness in a global clinical trial. The agreement is the first public health license for a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine, allowing the medicine to be produced by all capable manufacturers—once the drug receives regulatory approval—to expand the drug’s availability, widen its manufacturing base, and potentially push down the price. Merck has applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization, and the European Medicines Agency recently began a rolling review of the drug.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) on Thursday launched its new strategic plan outlining a focus on addressing access inequities to tools in underserved areas. Over the next year, ACT-A—a global partnership set up to accelerate the development and delivery of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines—will aim to support low- and middle-income countries in vaccinating 70 percent of their populations, increasing their testing rates to at least 1 per 1,000 people per day, and treating up to 120 million COVID-19 cases through deployment of existing treatments and enabling access to new therapies. The plan outlines a required budget of $23.4 billion between now and September 2022, including $840 million for research and development.

Inexpensive drug fluvoxamine could reduce hospitalization in adults with severe COVID-19, according to research published Wednesday in The Lancet Global Health. The findings, based on a clinical trial in Brazil evaluating high-risk, symptomatic adults who had recently contracted COVID-19, showed participants were less likely to require hospitalization or an extended emergency room stay when given a 100-milligram dose of fluvoxamine twice daily for ten days. Fluvoxamine is commonly prescribed to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder and is known to reduce inflammation, which COVID-19 can cause throughout the body. The study findings, part of the larger TOGETHER Trial aiming to identify repurposed therapies effective against COVID-19 disease progression, have been shared with the World Health Organization and the US National Institutes of Health.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.