Covid-19: what is molnupiravir, Merck's pill that would halve the risk of hospitalization?

the essential The American laboratory Merck plans to request shortly in the United States the authorization to market a pill which, according to a clinical trial, reduces by two the risks of hospitalization and death of patients with Covid – 19.

Merck plans to apply shortly to the United States for authorization to market a pill that could halve the risk of hospitalization and death of patients with Covid – 19. This drug called molnupiravir would represent a major advance in the fight against the pandemic by making it possible to quite easily reduce the serious forms of the disease.

“Impressive” data

Anthony Fauci, the White House adviser on the health crisis, has already considered the data from the clinical trial to be “impressive”.

Currently available anti-Covid treatments like monoclonal antibodies or Gilead’s remdesivir are administered intravenously.

Having an option that’s easier to deploy would be a godsend, notes Natalie Dean, an infectious disease biostatistician at Emory University.

“We can have treatments that are also effective, but if one is much easier to use than the others, then its impact on the population will be much greater,” she told AFP.

A hospitalization or death rate of 7.3% with the pill, against 14, 1% without

The clinical trial of Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics was conducted on 775 people with mild to moderate cases of Covid – 19 and at least one aggravating risk factor. They received the treatment within five days of the first symptoms.

The rate of hospitalization or death in patients who received the drug was 7.3%, compared to 14, 1% in those who received a placebo.

No death noted

No deaths were observed in people treated with molnupiravir, compared to 8 in the second group.

The results were convincing enough that an independent data monitoring committee, in consultation with the FDA, decided to stop the trial prematurely. This could indicate that its members consider that it would be unethical to continue to give a placebo to certain patients.

Intermediate results “very encouraging “

Antivirals work by decreasing the ability of a virus to replicate, thereby slowing down the disease.

Their application can be twofold: both to allow people already affected not to suffer from serious symptoms, but also to those who have been in close contact not to develop it.

But in general, antiviral drugs have so far not been very convincing against Covid.

“Molnupiravir looked promising in the lab, but the real test was to see if it had any benefit in patients,” said Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford.

“Many drugs fail at this stage, so these intermediate results are very encouraging,” he added in a post quoted by the British organization Science Media Center.

A huge market

As the market is potentially huge, several laboratories have entered the niche, such as the Roche laboratory in partnership with Atea Pharmaceuticals.

Pfizer announced Monday that it has started a clinical trial for its own anti-Covid pill, to test its ability to preventively reduce the risk of infection in those around a person who has contracted the disease.

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