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Merck’s experimental antiviral pill for COVID-19, known as molnupiravir, reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by about half, according to a preliminary analysis of its clinical trial published on Friday. The drug manufacturer plans to seek emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration and other regulators “as soon as possible,” the company said.
If approved, molnupiravir would be the first antiviral pill to treat COVID-19. The only other antiviral drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of COVID-19 is remdesivir, which must be administered by IV or injection.
The other FDA-approved COVID-19 treatment is, which is free and available to high-risk Americans for severe COVID-19. The antibody treatment is usually given intravenously and can be administered outside a hospital, but many health advocates believe that it has been underused or poorly distributed.
If Merck’s pill becomes available, it could be the breakthrough in treatment that many have hoped for. The pandemic has killed more than 4.7 million people worldwide, including nearly 700,000 in the United States.
Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said early results for molnupiravir showed that high-risk adults taking the pill within five days of developing COVID-19 symptoms were about 50% less likely to be hospitalized or die, compared to with patients receiving placebo (7.3% vs. 14.1%). The clinical trial included 775 adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who also had at least one risk factor, such as obesity or heart disease. The drug manufacturer also reported that side effects in people taking the pill were similar to people taking a placebo pill.
In June, Merck signed an agreement with the United States that the government would buy 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir if the drug receives authorization for emergency use from the FDA.
Last month, data from Johns Hopkins University showed ithas died of coronavirus. Although the available COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective, millions of Americans have yet to get a shot. According to a September report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unvaccinated people are now over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and over 10 times more likely to die from the disease than fully vaccinated people.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.