COVID-19 pill could be a "game changer"

Drug companies Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics report that their antivral pill molnupravir may be a tremendous help protecting patients infected with COVID-19. According to clinical trial data from an interim analysis 29 days after the study began, "molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50%" for people with mild to moderate COVID-19. The drug was discovered by researchers at Emory University and quickly licensed by the two companies. From CNN:

In a news release, the company said 7.3% of 385 patients who received the antiviral were either hospitalized or died from Covid-19, compared with 14.1% of the 377 patients who received a placebo, which does nothing[…]

"This is the most impactful result that I remember seeing of an orally available drug in the treatment of a respiratory pathogen, perhaps ever," Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Friday. "I think getting an oral pill that can inhibit viral replication — that can inhibit this virus — is going to be a real game changer."

[Compared to remdesivir,] molnupiravir would be simpler for patients — no IV required — and it works differently, by changing the SARS-CoV-2 virus to inhibit replication."It actually gets incorporated into the genetic material of the of the virus and introduces errors," Dr. Daria Hazuda, chief science officer with MSD, Merck's label operating outside of the US and Canada, said in a briefing with the Science Media Center in the UK on Friday.

image: Merck/Emory News Center