An experimental oral medication reduced the risk of hospitalization and death from covid by 50% in an interim clinical trial. The drug, named molnupiravir, was developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, who will now proceed immediately to securing emergency use authorization.
"This is going to change the dialogue around how to manage COVID-19," Robert Davis, Merck's chief executive officer, told Reuters.
If authorized, molnupiravir, which is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus, would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19.
This is excellent news for people who get covid, improving outcomes and bringing the pandemic within measurable distance of its end.
That said, it seems a bad idea to present these oral antivirals as alternatives to vaccination for people who have so far refused to get vaccinated. The temptation is obvious, but 50%-effective pills for the sick are a poor alternative to 90%-effective vaccinations which prevent sickness in the first place. Better than nothing, sure, but the cost is further undermining the perceived necessity of vaccinations.
Besides, the Qanon/MAGA crowd already see it coming. Consider that Merck famously failed to develop an effective Covid vaccine. A rational person might well be cynical about its resulting incentives. So imagine how batshit conspiratorial an irrational person might be about them. Did you know that University of California at Irvine just developed a 5G chip small enought to fit inside the standard size 5 pill capsules? They know.
Merck's promo image of the pills does look like a pile of horse feed, though, so maybe there is hope.