As the world struggles to find a way to live with Covid-19 , the preliminary results of two antiviral drugs offer some hope. Molnupiravir , a drug developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, and Paxlovid by Pfizer are both pending approval in the United States while Britain has already given the go-ahead to molnupiravir. The Merck-Ridgeback medication can cut death and hospitalisations by half while the Pfizer treatment does so by 89 per cent , according to the companies. It is still too early to say if they are game changers, given that they appear to work best when taken in the first few days after the onset of symptoms – and that relies on a swift diagnosis. Even if they are approved, they are still first-generation drugs and will need to be studied and improved to minimise side effects and refine dosage and timing of application. They will definitely not be available over the counter for a runny nose. Some laboratory research indicates that molnupiravir might cause mutations in DNA, but the benefits still outweigh the risks because a full course is only five days. Paxlovid cannot be taken with other drugs commonly used to treat heart conditions, suppress the immune system or reduce pain. But both medications are important additions to the armoury in the fight against Covid-19, especially now that it is clear that vaccines cannot stop transmission or eliminate the disease. China is also hoping to play a role in the development of therapeutics, with a laboratory-developed antibody treatment likely to be approved by the end of this year . Two Chinese-developed oral drugs are also expected to be subjected to clinical trials soon, according to state media. It will still take some time to find out if the two oral drugs are promising, but China can help the world with better access to therapeutics by using its enormous manufacturing capacity to make molnupiravir and Paxlovid and sell them to developing countries at affordable prices. Both sets of developers have shared their patents with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool to supply the drugs to low-income countries. Likewise the pharmaceutical firms behind the Chinese drugs should share the patents with others if the trials are successful. After all, keeping cases low in developing countries benefits China, which is still working out how and when it can open its borders.