WASHINGTON (AP) (KBTV) – An experimental COVID-19 pill by the drugmaker Merck has revealed that its pill has reduced hospitalizations and death by half in people who have contracted the coronavirus.
With the success of the newly pill, this would become the first treatment of coronavirus that does not require an IV or injection. Merck would soon ask health officials in the U.S. and around the world to authorize its use.
Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck both said early results showed patients who received the drug, called molnupiravir, within five days of COVID-19 symptoms had about half the rate of hospitalization and death as patients who received a dummy pill. The study tracked 775 adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who were considered higher risk for severe disease due to health problems such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease.
Medical experts that monitored the trial recommended stopping the trial due to results working. This means that the product is working and further testing does not have to be done and can apply for authorization use. The company executives plan to submit the data for review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) very soon. Once the submission is complete, the FDA could make a decision within weeks and, if approved, the drug could be on the market.
Dr. Dean Li, Vice President of Merck Research Laboratories says, “It exceeded what I thought the drug might be able to do in this clinical trial, when you see a 50% reduction in hospitalization or death that’s a substantial clinical impact.”
For a full course if treatment, patients will take the pill twice a day for five days. Another antiviral drug approved by the FDA to treat COVID- 19, remdesivir, allowed emergency use of three antibody therapies that help the immune system fight the virus. However, it is not a pill but have to be administered by injection.
Merck’s pill works by interfering with the coronavirus’s ability to copy its genetic code and reproduce itself. It has shown similar activity against other viruses.
The U.S. government has committed to purchase 1.7 million doses of the drug if it is authorized by the FDA. Merck says that it can produce 10 million doses by the end of the year and has contracts with governments worldwide, also prices have not been announced.