The German pharmaceutical Merck announced this Friday that its experimental pill for the coronavirus reduced by half the hospitalizations and deaths of infected patients who participated in its clinical trial. The company will shortly request the authorization of the drug for emergency use from the health authorities of the United States and other countries. If approved by regulatory agencies, it will be the first oral drug to treat COVID – 19, a breakthrough in treatments to combat the virus that could keep those infected away from the hospital. .
Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the developers of the drug called molnupiravir, conducted a study with 775 adults infected with covid – 19, with mild to moderate cases, but who were at risk of serious disease due to health problems such as obesity, diabetes or heart failure. None of them had been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Half of the study participants received the drug and the other half received a placebo. Among patients taking molnupiravir, 7.3% were hospitalized or died within 30 days, compared to 14, 1% of those who consumed the placebo.
“When you see a reduction of 50 in hospitalization or death, that has a substantial clinical impact, ”said Dr. Dean Li, vice president of Merck Research Laboratories, in a statement. The preliminary results have not been reviewed by experts outside the pharmaceutical company. Company executives have said they plan to submit their trial results for review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the coming days. If the US regulatory agency gives the go-ahead, the pill would be available in a matter of weeks.
The US Government has already purchased 1.7 million doses for 1. 200 million dollars (about 1. 034 million euros). The company plans to make 10 million pills before the end of the year and has anticipated that it will use a “tiered pricing approach.” The capsules should be taken twice a day for five days when the patient registers the first symptoms of the coronavirus.
Santiago Moreno, head of the infectious diseases service at the Ramón y Cajal Hospital (Madrid), has assured that molnupiravir “is a drug that has the same mechanism of action as remdesivir, it is an RNA-polymerase inhibitor, an essential enzyme for the virus to replicate.” Moreno explains that two clinical trials were designed to test the new drug: one for hospitalized patients and the other for milder patients. The first was stopped because it did not show efficacy when the disease was too advanced. The trial was maintained whose encouraging results have been released this Friday. “If these results are confirmed, this is important because it provides a new therapeutic alternative that can help in the fight against the disease,” said the doctor, reports Oriol Güell.
Until now, vaccines are the most effective way to protect against coronavirus, but scientists are trying to develop effective drugs that are easy to distribute, especially when billions of people around the world, particularly in poor countries, they do not have the option of immunization due to lack of access to vaccines. In addition to Merck, several pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Roche, are conducting trials with similar drugs, the results of which could be public in the coming weeks or months.