Quick Take: Why the World Needs More COVID-19 Medicines .. and Fast

Krishna Udayakumar explains why oral therapeutics may be as important as vaccines to managing COVID-19 globally. 

Published August 22, 2022 under Commentary

Quick Take graphic with Krishna Udayakumar

Global health experts have often warned about the slow trickle of COVID-19 vaccines making their way to low- and middle-income countries, many of which have still administered doses to less than 30 percent of their citizens. But vaccines aren’t the only pandemic-fighting tool in short supply in the world’s poorest places. 

Oral therapeutics such as the antiviral drugs Paxlovid and molnupiravir are also proving difficult for people in many countries to obtain in a timely way, adding to the global challenges to save lives and improve global equity, says Krishna Udayakumar, M.D., director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. And that should be alarming news as countries shift from emergency response to longer-range strategies for controlling COVID-19. 

“While vaccines really remain an important part of our response, we have to make available access to every single intervention that is available for dealing with COVID,” Udayakumar says in the Quick Take clip below. 

With more contagious variants of the COVID virus now spreading in many parts of the world, Udayakumar says antivirals are among the most effective responses to save lives and to reduce strain on health systems overwhelmed by symptomatic cases during surges. Through the COVID Global Accountability Platform (COVID GAP), Duke University and COVID Collaborative have provided recommendations to key global stakeholders, including the World Health Organization and the US government, to accelerate access to oral antivirals globally. And they have brought together several leading implementing organizations and foundations to launch a new consortium to address this important challenge.