COVID-19: Drugmaker To Seek Emergency Approval For Pill To Treat Virus

A new pharmaceutical company is throwing its hat in the ring as the country continues its fight against COVID-19.

Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics announced on Friday, Oct. 1 that it is planning to apply for federal emergency approval of a pill that can reportedly help prevent hospitalizations and deaths in COVID-19 patients.

According to the company, trials have found that the pill – dubbed molnupiravir – could potentially reduce the risk of hospitalization or death in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 by approximately 50 percent.

The results of the late-stage trial have been released by the pharma company, but they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The study included 775 patients who had laboratory-confirmed symptomatic COVID-19 and were enrolled in the phase three trial by early August. Each was unvaccinated and had at least one underlying factor putting them at higher risk for developing more severe cases of the virus.

Initial data found that 7.3 percent of patients treated with the pill were hospitalized within 29 days after the trial began, compared with 14.1 percent of patients who received a placebo and were either hospitalized or dead by that time.

In total, eight patients died during the trial, all of whom took the placebo.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci called the study “very good news,” but reiterated that the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is still to get vaccinated.

“The news of the efficacy of this particular antiviral is obviously very good news,” Fauci said. “The company, when they briefed us last night, had mentioned that they will be submitting their data to the FDA imminently.”

If the US Food and Drug Administration approves the Merck pill, it would be the first antiviral treatment for COVID-19 that can be administered orally.

“More tools and treatments are urgently needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become a leading cause of death and continues to profoundly affect patients, families, and societies and strain health care systems all around the world,” Merck CEO Robert Davis said in a statement.

“With these compelling results, we are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic.” 

Complete results from the study can be found here.

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