The German multinational of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and biotechnology, Merck, has just announced that its drug “Molnupiravir” could become the “first” antiviral pill to treat the coronavirus.
Following the results of the clinical trial, they have decided to apply to the FDA for authorization for their drug, which, as they have made public today, reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by half, when administered to high-risk people and in the first moments of the Covid-19.
The treatment could become the first of many antivirals for the coronavirus that are in the clinical trial phase and that could become a powerful new tool to control the pandemic.
This is how he explained it to New York Times Dr. Robert Shafer, an infectious disease specialist and antiviral therapy expert at Stanford University:
– “I believe that this advance will result in the saving of thousands of lives around the world.”
Two more pills are on the way
But “Molnupiravir” will not be the only one.
It is known that two other antiviral pills, one developed by Pfizer and the other by Atea Pharmaceuticals and Roche, are already in the final stages of analyzing the results, so it is expected that they may also apply for authorization in the coming months.
The dosage of the Merck drug, which is designed to stop the replication of the coronavirus, indicates that four capsules should be taken twice a day for five days.
And in the announcement, the laboratory explained that an independent board of experts analyzing the data from its study recommended that the trial be stopped earlier than planned, as the benefit of the drug for patients had been very convincing.
The company added that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) had agreed with that decision.
The test results
The trial analyzed data through early August from 775 volunteers in the United States and abroad.
And the results released by Merck explain that in volunteers who received the drug, the risk of being hospitalized or dying decreased by 50% compared to those who received placebo pills. And without worrisome side effects.
In addition, 7% of the volunteers in the group who received the drug were hospitalized, and none died. Big data compared to a 14% hospitalization and death rate, including eight deaths, in the group that received the placebo.
Of course, at the moment it cannot be said that “Molnupiravir” is the treatment with the best results of those known so far. Because the proven efficacy of the Merck pill was less than that obtained in the early days of the disease with monoclonal antibody treatments. Which have been shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by 70-85% in high-risk Covid patients.
This “treatment” that mimics the antibodies that the immune system generates naturally to fight the virus is gaining popularity even among anti-vaccines. But it is very expensive (about $ 2,100 per injection) and very time consuming to administer.
That is why Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and scientific researcher at the University of Saskatchewan Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Organization, said antiviral pills could have a greater impact as they have a greater capacity to reach many people.
The government has already placed orders
Acceptance of this magnificent news has not been long in coming, and the American press reports that the federal government of the United States has already pre-ordered 1.7 million doses of the drug from Merck, which is priced at about $ 700. per patient.
Merck, which is developing the pill with its Miami partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, has not said for which patients it plans to ask the FDA to approve the drug.
It is possible that it will do it initially for the most delicate patients, that is to say: the elderly and those considered at high risk for their previous ailments.
But the idea is that later on, if the data is confirmed, it can be managed extensively.
If authorized, Merck’s drug would unseat Remdesivir and could be considered the first antiviral treatment for Covid-19, given the difference in effectiveness.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.