Oral Drug Likely Effective Against COVID-19: REPORT

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Harry Wilmerding Contributor
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Pharmaceutical company Merck announced Friday that it will seek authorization around the world for its COVID-19 drug, which reduces hospitalizations and deaths by half in people recently infected by COVID-19, multiple sources reported.

The company said that its new drug, molnupiravir, targets the enzyme that allows the virus to replicate itself by introducing errors in the virus’s genetic code, Reuters reported. If approved, this will be the first COVID-19 treatment in pill form, according to the Associated Press.

Other COVID-19 treatments target the spike protein which is used to differentiate between variants, Reuters reported.

A recent study conducted by Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics showed that patients who took molnupiravir within five days of expressing COVID-19 symptoms had roughly half the rate of hospitalization compared to those who took the placebo, according to the AP.

“It’s a really nice observation because it gives us confidence that it will work the same across the variants that are already out there, and potentially against any new variants that may emerge,” Jay Grobler, head of infectious disease and vaccines at Merck, Bloomberg reported. (RELATED: Third COVID-19 Shot Has Similar Side Effects To Second Jab, CDC Reports)

The drug is in the late stages of testing which is expected to end in November, according to Bloomberg. Merck is developing the drug with help from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

“These in-vitro data suggest the molnupitravir is effective against SARS-CoV-2 variant, particularly when initiated early in the course of illness,” A Merck spokesperson told The Hill. “We are hopeful that molnupiravir may play a key role in helping patients and reducing the burden on healthcare systems.

Merck is not the only company exploring treatments for severe cases of COVID-19, according to the Hill. Pfizer and BioNTech, and Swiss health care company Roche all said they are testing a pill form drug to treat more serious virus cases. 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated. 

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