It could be quite the Christmas present.
As Europe struggles through a fifth wave of the pandemic, President Macron said earlier this week that France will receive the first “truly effective treatments” against severe forms of Covid-19 before the end of the year.
So, what treatments was he actually talking about?
Marketed under the brand name, Lageviro, this drug was developed by the American pharmaceutical giant, Merck.
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It is designed as a pill to be swallowed by those who test positive for Covid and greatly reduce the odds of suffering serious illness as a result of infection. It is taken twice daily over the course of five days.
According to a non-peer reviewed study conducted by Merck, the drug can cut hospitalisations and deaths among people with COVID-19 by half.
Although this treatment has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), France has already ordered 50,000 doses. Speaking in the Senate last month, Health Minister Olivier Véran said that the pills will arrive in France at the end of November or early December.
Lageviro has already been approved by health regulators in the UK. Technically, the EMA and European could not block France from authorising the medicine within its borders.
Another pill that is likely to be available in France before the end of the year is Paxlovid. Its developer, Pfizer, says that it reduces the chance of Covid-infected patients from falling seriously ill by 89% – if taken within three days of infection.
While Lageviro causes the RNA inside the virus to mutate and stop replicating inside the human body, Paxlovid inhibits an enzyme that allows the Covid-19’s viral proteins to develop in the first place.
In an interview with Le Parisien in July, Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the French scientific council on Covid-19, was optimistic about the drug’s potential. He said that a fourth word, “heal”, would be added to the country’s current approach to the virus: “test, trace, isolate.”
Paxlovid is more expensive to produce than Lageviro and therefore may not be used as much. The government has not disclosed how many doses have been ordered. Delfraissy originally said doses would be available in the Autumn of this year.
Ronapreve and Regkirona
Two further drugs were approved by the EMA on Thursday, after Macron’s address, and could soon be made available for use in France.
Ronapreve and Regkirona work by targeting the proteins in the Covid-19 virus that allow it to infect human cells.
These treatments are given either via an injection or through an intravenous drip, at the early stages of infection, to prevent serious illness.
The EU has already ordered 55,000 Ronapreve treatments but it is unclear when or if this drug will be used in France.
In a statement on Thursday, Stella Kyriakides, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, welcomed the development of these new treatments as an “important step” but insisted that “vaccination is the only preventative way out of the crisis.”