Merck’s Anti-COVID-19 Drug Reduces Risk of Death and Hospitalization by 50%: Study

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by Deena Beasley

Oct 1 (Reuters) – Merck & Co Inc’s experimental oral COVID-19 drug molnupiravir reduced the chance of hospitalization or death for patients at risk of severe disease by about 50%, according to preliminary results from clinical trials announced Friday.

Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics plan to apply for the pill’s emergency use authorization in the United States as soon as possible and submit applications to regulatory agencies around the world. Due to the positive results, the phase 3 trial will be discontinued early on the recommendation of external monitors.

“This is going to change the dialogue on how to deal with COVID-19,” Robert Davis, Merck’s chief executive officer, told Reuters.

If licensed, molnupiravir, which is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus, would be the first oral antiviral drug for COVID-19.

Rivals such as Pfizer Inc and Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG are racing to develop an easy-to-administer antiviral pill -pfizer-efforts-2021-09-28 against COVID-19, but so far, only antibody cocktails, which must be administered intravenously, are approved for the treatment of out-of-hospital patients.

A planned interim analysis of 775 patients in the Merck study found that 7.3% of those who received molnupiravir were hospitalized or had died 29 days after treatment, compared with 14.1% of patients who received placebo.

There were no deaths in the molnupiravir group, but there were eight deaths among the placebo patients.

“Antiviral treatments that can be taken at home to keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital are badly needed,” Ridgeback CEO Wendy Holman said in a statement.

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