US drugmaker Merck shows off first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19

The Merck drug, molnupiravir, is an experimental drug that promises to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death by about half.

A new drug, which promises to be the first-ever oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 has debuted from the labs of US drug manufacturer Merck. The experimental tablet named Molnupiravir has shown welcome results during testing and is being pushed by the maker as a pill that would reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death by about half.

The results that came about post interim clinical trial is seen as a breakthrough in the world’s fight against COVID-19. Molnupiravir was administered twice a day to patients recently diagnosed with the disease and the results have been fascinating.

Merck has announced that the results were positive and that it would apply for authorisation of the drug for emergency use in the US in the next two weeks.

Dr Anthony Fauci terms Merck drug trial results ‘good news’

The results were welcomed by none other than Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to US President Joe Biden. Terming that the results were very good news, Dr Fauci added that the use of it should wait till the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed all the data fully.

The drug, if authorised by the drug regulator, would come about as a blessing for the world that is fighting it all out to gain control over the coronavirus spread and its after-effects.

Originally developed for the treatment of influenza, Molnupiravir has the capability to bring about alterations in the genetic code of the virus. This, in turn, will help in stopping its spread in the human body.

Merck pill said to be effective against new variants of virus

The clinical trials involved administering the pill to as many as 775 patients. Among patients who had been administered Molnupiravir, 7.3 per cent were either hospitalized or died at the end of 30 days, compared with 14.1 per cent of those who were given the dummy pill.

Post that period, there were no deaths among those who received the Molnupiravir pill, compared with eight in the placebo group, Merck was quoted saying. Merck has also said that the new drug has all that it would make it equally effective against new variants of the virus as it evolves in the future.

With this Merck becomes the first drugmaker to post-trial results of a pill to treat COVID-19. The company has lined up measures to produce 10 million courses of Molnupiravir by the year-end. Taking it further, the US administration has committed to purchasing $1.2 billion worth of the drug, once Molnupiravir gets USFDA approval.

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