A drug experiment for severe Covid slashes the risk of hospitalization or death by about half, temporary clinical trial results suggest.
The so-called Covid antiviral pill “Molnupirvir” was given twice a day to patients recently identified with the disease.
U.S. drugmaker Merck said the result of this drug were so progressive that outside monitors had asked to stop the trial early.
It said it would apply for emergency use approval for the drug in the US in the next two weeks.
The Chief Medical adviser of US president Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony said that the outcome of the Covid antiviral pill was exceptional and this is very good news for the country, but advised caution until the US Food and Drug Administration(FDA) had reviewed the data.
If approved by officials, Molnupiravir would be the first-ever Covid antiviral pill that may be used for medication.
The pill which was actually developed to treat influenza is intended to introduce faults into the genetic code of the virus, averting it from spreading in the body.
In a study and analysis of 775 patients, 7.3% of those given Molnupiravir were hospitalized. This compares with 14.1% of patients who were given a placebo or dummy pill. There were no deaths in the Molnupiravir group, but eight patients who were given a placebo in the trial later died of Covid.
The data was published in a press release and has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Unlike most of the Covid vaccines, which mark the spike protein on the outside of the virus, the treatment works by aiming for an enzyme the virus uses to make reproductions of itself.
Merck, who is popularly known as MSD in the UK, said that should make it equally effective against the new variants of the Covid virus as it evolves in the future.
Daria Hazuda, Merck’s vice-president of infectious illness discovery, gave a statement to BBC that “An antiviral treatment for people who are not vaccinated, or who are less responsive to immunity from vaccines, is a very significant tool in serving to end this Covid pandemic.”
Trial consequences suggest Molnupiravir needs to be taken early after symptoms grow to have a result. A previous study in patients who had already been hospitalized with severe Covid was stopped after unsatisfactory results.
Merk is the first firm to inform trial outcomes of a pill to treat Covid, but other firms are still working on parallel treatments. Its US rival Pfizer has afresh started late-stage trials of two dissimilar Covid antiviral pills, while Swiss company Roche is working on an alike pill.
Merck has said it supposes to produce 10 million courses of Molnupiravir by the end of 2021. The US government has already granted to buy $1.2bn (£885m) worth of the drug if it receives approval from the regulatory body, the FDA.
The firm said it is in continuing conversation with other countries, including the United Kingdom, and has also settled certifying treaties with a number of generic manufacturers to resource the treatment to low and middle-income countries.
Prof Penny Ward, from King’s College London, who was not involved in the trial, said: “It is significantly expected that the antiviral task force has, like the vaccines taskforce, pre-ordered courses of this medication.
” So that the United Kingdom can, at last, appropriately accomplish this circumstance by giving vaccine breakthrough disease, and relieve pressure on the NHS during the forthcoming winter.”
Prof Peter Horby, a professional in infectious diseases at the University of Oxford, said: “A safe, inexpensive, and effective oral Covid antiviral pill would be massive progress in the fight against Covid.
“Molnupiravir has looked trustworthy in the lab, but the real test was whether it shows benefit in patients. Many drugs miscarry at this point, so these temporary outcomes are very encouraging.”