Merck Says Its Antiviral Pill Cuts Risk Of Covid Hospitalizations, Deaths By Half
TOPLINE Merck said Friday it would ask U.S. regulators for emergency authorization for an antiviral pill to treat Covid-19, the first treatment of its kind that the company said could halve the risk of hospitalization or death in high-risk groups and provide a much needed tool to treat patients outside hospital settings.
Molnupiravir, the antiviral Merck is developing with Miami-based Ridgeback Therapeutics, halved the risks of hospitalization or death when given to recently diagnosed patients at risk of severe illness, according to interim results from a late-stage clinical trial.
Merck said it is halting the study and based on these findings will seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “as soon as possible.”
Merck said an independent group of experts monitoring the trial recommended it stop based on the strong results, a move the FDA endorsed.
If approved, molnupiravir will become the first antiviral pill to treat Covid-19 on the market.
An oral antiviral could be a gamechanger in the fight against Covid-19. While there are numerous safe and effective vaccines to prevent disease, there are few drugs to treat those who have already contracted it. The treatments we do have tend to target the body’s response to infection, not the virus itself. Those that do actually target the virus, such as monoclonal antibody treatments made by the likes of Eli Lilly and Regeneron, are expensive, in short supply and in most instances must be administered intravenously in hospital settings. The short supplies are often reserved for those most likely to need them and the World Health Organization only recommends Regeneron’s treatment for patients with severe illness who have not mounted an immune response of their own or patients at risk of developing severe disease. An oral therapy like Merck’s—a twice-daily pill for five days—could help eliminate many of the barriers to treatment, help reduce the burden on hospitals and save lives.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
There are several other oral antivirals in development for use against Covid-19. Pfizer is testing one to treat or prevent Covid-19, as is Swiss pharma giant Roche, alongside Boston-based Atea Pharmaceuticals.
7.2%. That’s how much shares for Merck jumped in trading before markets opened in New York following the news.
Antiviral pill: How close are we to a drug to treat Covid? (Financial Times)