There’s more good news in the fight against Covid-19: A new antiviral Covid-19 pill is up for U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization and it could significantly decrease the number of hospitalizations and deaths caused by the coronavirus.
Pharmaceutical company Merck announced on Friday morning that it had created the first oral medicine called molnupiravir to act against Covid-19. The Merck team is clear, however, that molnupiravir isn’t a vaccine that prevents the virus from taking hold and spreading. It’s an antiviral medicine meant to be consumed after a person already has Covid-19 in order to lessen symptoms, cutting the risk of hospitalization and death in patients.
Just how effective is molnupiravir? In their trial, Merck worked with 775 participants who all had mild-to-moderate Covid-19 symptoms. They took eight pills per day of the medication for five days, and Merck says that in the experiment, it proved to halve the risk of hospitalization and death due to Covid-19. “It exceeded what I thought the drug might be able to do in this clinical trial,” Dean Li, MD, PhD, vice president of Merck Research Laboratories, told Reuters. “When you see a 50 percent reduction in hospitalization or death, that’s a substantial clinical impact.”
Currently, there’s only one approved antiviral medication for Covid-19 patients called remdesivir, but because it needs to be administered via intravenous injection, it’s not as accessible to the greater population. There are three additional approved antibody therapies healthcare professionals are using to strength the immune system in Covid-19 patients, but again, those all require an IV.
While the news is exciting, there are still a few more steps involved in the process before the Covid-19 pill can enter the market, starting with Merck submitting their findings and medication to the FDA for emergency use. We hope there’s going to be more good news on this front shortly!