Trials have been going on for the new pill that’s supposed to treat and prevent COVID-19, and Merck is saying theirs reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half.
They are soon planning to ask for authorization to use it in the United States and globally.
This is a step in a new direction for the treatment of COVID-19 because at the moment all therapies require an IV or injection.
The drug is call molnupiravir, and patients that took it within 5 days of the illness presenting symptoms had half the rate of hospitalizations and deaths compared to the group that received placebo pills.
There were 775 adults tracked who showed mild to moderate symptoms of infection that were at risk for severe COVID because of obesity, heart disease, or diabetes.
Hospitalization and death rates for those taking molnupiravir were 7.3% and those taking a placebo were 14.1%.
The results of this study have not been peer reviewed but Merck is planning to present them.
Experts independently involved in the study suggested stopping it early because the results were strong, and Merck executives plan to submit data to the FDA in the coming days.
While side effects were reported, it is not clear what they are and they were more commonly reported by those in the placebo group.
Patients already in the stages of severe COVID did not see a benefit from taking the pill.
The pill works similarly to Tamiflu for Influenza, and works to attack an enzyme that the virus uses to create copies of its genetic code to reproduce itself.
If the drug is authorized by the FDA, the United States plans to purchase 1.7 million doses.
Merck says it can create 10 million doses by 2022 and currently has contracts with governments across the world. Prices haven’t been shared.
Pfizer and Roche are working on their own versions of the pill as well.
Patients studied were from Latin America, Europe, and Africa. About 10% were from the U.S.
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