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What are antiviral COVID-19 pills and how could they help? – Global News



The United Kingdom on Thursday became the first country in the world to approve an orally ingested COVID-19 antiviral pill, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

On Friday, COVID-19 vaccine maker Pfizer unveiled promising results on their experimental pill, claiming that it could cut rates of hospitalization and death from the virus by nearly 90 per cent.

Public health experts have described the implementation of the anti-viral pills as potentially game-changing in the fight against the pandemic, citing both their effectiveness in preventing severe disease and death as well as their low cost to produce.

Read more:
New Pfizer COVID-19 pill reduces hospital, death risk by 90%, company says

Here’s what you need to know about the anti-viral COVID-19 pills.

How does it work?

The antiviral drugs have intrigued health experts and epidemiologists in how they specifically target parts of the virus’ genetic code.

In the case of Merck’s molnupiravir, the drug, once ingested, targets an enzyme used by the coronavirus to reproduce itself.

When the coronavirus’ RNA begins to replicate within a cell, it would mistakenly pick up the drug and incorporate it into the RNA chain.

The drug would then insert errors into the virus’ genetic code — slowing its ability to spread and take over human cells.

Click to play video: 'Answering your COVID-19 questions – Nov. 4, 2021'

Answering your COVID-19 questions – Nov. 4, 2021

Answering your COVID-19 questions – Nov. 4, 2021

“So basically, if the virus is trying to replicate more and more copies of itself, one of the things it needs is to put that intact viral RNA into that new virus particle that’s going to be shed from the cell, and this drug basically really screws that whole process up,” explained Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of Infectious Diseases at Queen’s University.

“It creates like a faulty template to be able to undergo further replication.”

While Merck’s pill acts as a nucleoside analog that tries to introduce errors into the virus’ genetic code, Pfizer’s differs as an inhibitor that looks to block an enzyme the coronavirus needs in order to multiply.

Pfizer said its pill targets the part of the virus essential to viral replication, essentially meaning that it cannot become resistant to the drug itself.

Read more:
U.K. approves Merck antiviral pill to treat COVID-19

Both antiviral remedies would need to be taken over a period of five days, though the number of pills taken would differ between the brands.

Pfizer’s anti-viral concoction would need to be taken six times a day, with three tablets in the morning and another three at night. Merck’s treatment on the other hand needs eight pills in total, with four in the morning and four in the evening.

How effective are the pills?

In early October, Merck revealed that its pill cut the chances of COVID-19 hospitalization or death by 50 per cent in at-risk patients if its pill was given within five days of the disease’ onset.

The company said then that viral sequencing so far showed that its drug would be effective against all variants of COVID-19 — including the much more deadly Delta.

Click to play video: 'Is Merck’s COVID pill a game changer?'

Is Merck’s COVID pill a game changer?

Is Merck’s COVID pill a game changer?

On Friday, Pfizer said that its pill could reduce the chances of hospitalization or death by nearly 90 per cent should patients be treated within three days of the onset of symptoms, and 85 per cent within five days of onset.

Of the 1,219 patients in Pfizer’s study, 0.8 per cent were hospitalized and none died within 28 days after treatment compared to the seven per cent hospitalization rate and seven deaths in the placebo group who were not administered the drug.

Another two trials including people without underlying risks factors and people who were exposed to the virus but were not yet infected are still underway, the company said.

Are there side effects?

While both Pfizer and Merck’s drugs showed promising results, none were free from potential side effects.

Pfizer’s drug would have to be taken alongside an older antiviral called ritonavir, which works to boost the activity of inhibitors but could potentially cause gastrointestinal side effects and interfere with other medicines.

Similar drugs in the same class as Merck’s have also been linked to birth defects in some animal studies, though the company said that studies of its drug currently don’t show signs of it causing any birth defects or cancer.

Read more:
COVID-19 antiviral pill approved in U.K. still being reviewed by Health Canada

Both of the companies expressed confidence in their drug’s safety, despite having released only limited data on the treatments.

According to Pfizer, about 20 per cent of patients having taken the drug or a placebo experienced mostly mild adverse events, and that serious side effects were found in 1.7 per cent of those who took the drug.

Click to play video: 'Health Canada considers Merck’s experimental COVID-19 drug'

Health Canada considers Merck’s experimental COVID-19 drug

Health Canada considers Merck’s experimental COVID-19 drug – Oct 4, 2021

In Merck’s case, 12 per cent of patients who took the drug and 11 per cent who took a placebo experienced an adverse event. But the company’s pill targets the genetic code of the virus, leading to some experts questioning whether the drug could cause mutations like birth defects or tumours.

The U.K.’s regulatory agency said however that the pill’s ability to interact with DNA has been studied “extensively” and that it wouldn’t pose a risk to humans.

How could it change the fight against COVID-19?

While the U.K. remains the first and only country to have approved Merck’s antiviral pill, others aren’t too far behind.

U.S. advisers are set to meet later in November to vote on whether the drug should be authorized while Health Canada said it was still reviewing data from the pharmaceutical company before making its decision.

Merck has already etched out deals to sell more than 3 million courses of its drug so far, while the U.S. has already secured “millions of pill doses” of Pfizer’s antiviral pill according to President Joe Biden on Friday.

Click to play video: 'Fauci says Merck data on its COVID-19 pill treatment ‘impressive’'

Fauci says Merck data on its COVID-19 pill treatment ‘impressive’

Fauci says Merck data on its COVID-19 pill treatment ‘impressive’ – Oct 1, 2021

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti told The Canadian Press that the “slow burn” of hospitalizations may have added more urgency to the U.K.’s authorization of the drug — a sentiment Evans also echoed.

And while there seems to be an urgency for its approval in other countries struggling from virus hospitalizations like Britain, both experts said that Canada’s health regulator would be sure to look to at it from a more domestic context.

Evans said that the vast majority of the Canadian population has already been vaccinated and protected against COVID-19 — essentially placing the antiviral drugs in a “niche” spot.

The drug wouldn’t specifically protect a person from contracting the virus, but would protect them from severe outcomes should they get it, according to Evans.

Read more:
Experimental pill fights COVID-19, drug-maker Merck claims

“So this would be a drug, which is if you want to think about it, it’s in a kind of niche, and the niche is an unvaccinated person where you don’t have that enormous protective effect of vaccines,” he said.

However, the the medication could potentially push undecided people from getting the vaccine, warned Evans.

“If this drug proves to be useful, it’s going to make people who otherwise should go for the vaccine … say ‘well, no, no we got an antiviral here, so I think I will not bother to get the vaccine,’ and that’s one of the only drawbacks to it right?”

With files from The Canadian Press, the Associated Press and Reuters

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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GTA gas prices may fall 11 cents on Sunday – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

Published Saturday, November 27, 2021 3:38PM EST

Canadians should experience the fastest drop in gasoline prices in nearly 13 years on Sunday as fears about a virulent new COVID-19 variant are expected to provide a break of 11 cents per litre at the pumps.

Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, said the national average price could drop to about $1.32 per litre but begin to rise again midweek.

“(Sunday) represents the single largest decrease at the pumps we’ve seen going back to 2009,” he said in an interview.

Global crude oil prices plunged Friday over fears about a new COVID-19 variant called Omicron that prompted Canada to ban entry for foreign nationals who travelled through southern Africa.

The January crude oil contract fell 13.1 per cent or US$10.24 on Friday and currently stands at US$68.15 per barrel.

The decrease came as U.S. stock markets closed early Friday because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Sunday and Monday are going to be the best days for Canadians to fill up, including British Columbia,” McTeague said

Even residents of flood-ravaged B.C. will save on the province’s high gasoline prices despite facing rationing because severe flooding has shut both the Trans Mountain pipeline and the province’s lone refinery.

Drivers of non-essential vehicles can only purchase up to 30 litres per visit to a gas station in the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky area, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

East Coast residents won’t reap the immediate benefits of Sunday’s price drop because its regulated regional system averages price movements. That provides price predictability but blunts price discounts.

Despite the upcoming decrease, national gasoline prices have surged nearly 43 per cent in the past year as the reopening of the global economy from pandemic lockdowns prompted a recovery in crude prices.

McTeague suggested Canadians shouldn’t get too comfortable with the energy savings. He said prices are expectd to increase as OPEC and its allies, who are meeting on Monday, will likely refuse to increase production any further. Energy traders realize that Friday’s decrease was overdone and “flies in the face of fundamentals,” he added.

“My sense is that the decreases that we saw were a little exaggerated and overbought, and for that reason I think we might see a little bit more balance come back to the markets and fundamentals by Wednesday,” McTeague said.

“Unless there’s further unsettling news of greater and further lockdowns, I would expect that oil prices are probably going to recover US$3 to US$4 a barrel by Monday or Tuesday, which means by Wednesday or Thursday we could be looking at increases in the order of four or five cents a litre.”

McTeague said some gasoline savings will continue for a couple of weeks, but he foresees crude climbing back to about US$90 a barrel, which would translate into prices in Canada exceeding $1.50 per litre.

Impending carbon tax increases will further boost prices.

A tax of 2.5 cents per litre, including HST, will take effect on April 1, 2022. It will be followed in December by the clear fuel standard that will add another 18.1 cents per litre including HST, said McTeague.

Adding to the inflation pressure is the Canadian dollar which is less valuable than when it was at par the last time crude prices were around US$80. That reduces the purchasing power for all kinds of products, including energy and food.

The Canadian Automobile Association said that as of early Saturday morning, Manitoba had the lowest average pump price of $1.35/L, followed closely by Alberta at $1.377, while Newfoundland and Labrador was the highest at $1.583 with British Columbia at $1.558.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2021.

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Oil crashes more than US$10 as new COVID variant roils markets – BNN



Oil prices suffered one of the largest ever one-day plunges, crashing more than 11 per cent on Black Friday as a new coronavirus strain sparked fears that renewed lockdowns will hurt global demand.

The crash, the 7th largest ever for Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, may prompt the OPEC+ cartel to re-consider its policy when it meets next week, with the group increasingly leaning toward pausing its output hikes.

The sell-off was amplified by low liquidity on a festive day in the U.S., the breach of several technical supports and Wall Street banks rushing to dump oil futures to protect themselves against positions in the options market.

The development apparently wrong-footed many in the oil market who had been comforted by low inventory levels and demand that had rebounded to 2019 levels, said Rebecca Babin, senior energy trader at CIBC Private Wealth Management.

“It was a lack of downside that had us continuing to think nothing bad could happen,” she said. “No one was thinking we could get a variant that we’re not familiar with and it could have meaningful impact.”

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The price drop capped a dramatic week for the oil market, which started when U.S. President Joe Biden challenged OPEC+ by tapping the country’s strategic petroleum reserve in an effort to bring gasoline prices down. China, India, Japan and South Korea all joined the American effort.

Oil traders and analysts were divided about whether the flash crash was an excessive reaction to the COVID news. Damien Courvalin, oil analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York, called the drop an “excessive repricing” and ventured OPEC+ will respond pausing its production increases by three months.

High gasoline retail prices prompted U.S. President Joe Biden to seek ways to ease the pressure on consumers, leading to Tuesday’s announcement that the U.S. will release 50 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, with China, Japan, India, South Korea and the U.K. also set to tap inventories. Still, oil rose on the day that the move was confirmed, suggesting traders had already priced in the new supply, or that they were underwhelmed by the supply response.

OPEC+ had warned previously it would reconsider a potential output increase if other nations went ahead with a reserve release. UBS Group AG said Friday that OPEC+ could choose to pause its current planned output hike of 400,000 barrels a day, or even cut production.


  • West Texas Intermediate for January fell US$10.24, or 13.1 per cent, from Wednesday’s close to settle at US$68.15 a barrel in New York. The decline was the largest since April 2020.
  • There was no settlement Thursday due to the Thanksgiving holiday and all transactions will be booked Friday
  • Brent for January settlement tumbled US$9.50 to settle at US$72.72 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange

Friday’s oil selloff was likely exacerbated by a lack of trading activity during the U.S. holiday period, coming a day after Thanksgiving, and as the New York market closed early. 

“It’s a sign the market got carried away from itself and that we still remain very vulnerable to COVID-19,” said John Kilduff, founding partner at Again Capital LLC. 

Aside from the headline prices, crude traders also watched several other notable shifts in the market. WTI crude futures closed below its 200-day and 100-day moving averages, signs of technical weakness. The extreme pressure on the U.S. benchmark meant its discount to Brent expanded, reaching the widest since May 2020. 

The picture wasn’t much brighter in oil-product markets, the part of the oil complex most directly affected by end-user demand. Diesel plunged, particularly in Asia, as the market began to price in a potential renewed hit to economic growth.

“This is a huge overreaction in terms of the market,” Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd. said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “This is the market pricing in the worst possible scenarios.”

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Shoppers taking advantage of Black Friday deals in Ottawa – CTV Edmonton



Shoppers rushed to the stores in Ottawa on Black Friday, hoping to get the best deals of the year heading into Christmas. 

Some have even come from other countries for these sales like Elizabeth Elnakla, who is here from Scotland visiting her daughter Reem Almaqla. 

Elnakla is what you might call, a Black Friday newbie. 

“This is my first Black Friday. I’m super excited, it is so busy,” says Elnakla. 

She’s looking to snag all the deals she can before she heads back home in three days.

“Shopping back home, I live in a small town called Dundee and it’s not very large,” says Elnakla. “So the shopping is never crazy. It’s quite quiet.”

Last year, many were stuck doing their Black Friday and Boxing Day shopping online. This year, back to the in-person busyness.

Tanger Outlets

“We missed Black Friday last year,” says Almaqla, who wanted to show her mom what Black Friday was all about. “I just want her to go through this experience. To see what Black Friday is like here.”

Tanger Outlets in Kanata was packed for Black Friday sales all week, but nothing like today. 

“There’s nothing like a good sale, right? We all love the deal,” says shopper Josie Mousseau. “It’s just nice being outside in the fresh air. At least you get a little bit of an escape with your mask. You can take it off occasionally whereas when you’re confined to a mall, you really can’t.”

Monika Mehl describes the amazing deal she got on a Michael Kors purse. 

“I got it for 70 per cent off, and then an additional 15 per cent off. And because everything totalled over $300, I got another 10 per cent off.”

Stores at Tanger opened at 7 a.m. Friday. Maria Argyriou left Montreal at 5 a.m. to make sure she got here on time. 

“We went to all the sports stores and they’re all basically 50 per cent off,” says Argyriou.

Montreal is known for its shopping, but she wanted to try her luck in Ottawa.  

“There’s a lot of people [in Montreal]. Here there’s less people, and we can get better deals,” says Argyriou.

With lineups at dozens of stores, shoppers stood in line for up to 30 minutes, braving the rain and cold to get deals only available once a year.

All day, bags of items flew off the shelves. And with supply chain issues this year, many of these shoppers know that once it’s gone, it’s gone.

“So you better get your shopping done honey,” laughs Mousseau.

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