What’s new in coronavirus: First pill to treat COVID-19 shows promise, says New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company Merck

Kenilworth-Merck, NJ, said on Friday that the experimental COVID-19 pill will halve hospitalizations and deaths of people recently infected with the coronavirus and will seek approval from health officials in the United States and around the world soon. use.

If licensed, Merck’s drug is the first pill to treat COVID-19 and is a potentially significant breakthrough in efforts to fight the pandemic. All currently approved COVID-19 therapies in the United States require an IV or injection.

According to Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, early results showed that patients who received a drug called molnupiravir within 5 days of COVID-19 symptoms had about half the hospitalization and death rates of those with received the dummy pill. low. The study followed 775 adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are considered to be at high risk for serious illness due to health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Of patients taking molnupiravir, 7.3% died 30 days after admission or 30 days, compared with 14.1% of patients taking dummy pills. According to Merck, there were no deaths in the drug group after this period, compared with eight deaths in the placebo group. The results were published by the company and have not been peer reviewed. Merck said he plans to present them at future medical conferences.

An independent group of medical professionals who were monitoring the trial recommended that the trial be stopped early because the intermediate results were so strong. Company executives said they are in talks with the Food and Drug Administration and will submit the data for review in the coming days.

Dr Dean Lee, vice president of research at Merck, said: “If hospitalization or mortality is reduced by 50%, this is a substantial clinical effect.

Side effects were reported by both groups in the Merck trial, but were slightly more common in the dummy pill group. The company did not identify the problem.

Previous studies have shown that the drug does not benefit patients already hospitalized with serious illness.

The United States has approved an antiviral drug, remdesivir, specifically for COVID-19, allowing the emergency use of three antibody therapies to help the immune system fight off the virus. However, all drugs had to be given by intravenous injection or in hospitals and clinics, and the supply has been increased by the recent wave of delta mutants.

Healthcare professionals including Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the top infectious disease specialists in the United States, have long sought convenient pills that patients can take when symptoms of COVID-19 first appear. It’s just like the flu drug Tamiflu decades ago helps fight the flu. These drugs are seen as the key to controlling the wave of future infections and reducing the effects of pandemics.

Merck tablets work by interfering with the enzyme that the coronavirus uses to copy its genetic code and replicate itself. It shows similar activity against other viruses.

The US government has promised to purchase 1.7 million doses of the drug with FDA approval. Merck says it will be able to produce 10 million batches by the end of the year and has contracts with governments around the world. The company has not announced a price.

Several other companies, including Pfizer and Roche, are researching similar drugs that could yield results in the weeks and months to come.

Merck planned to enroll more than 1,500 patients in advanced stage trials before the Independent Commission prematurely discontinues. The results reported on Friday included patients enrolled in Latin America, Europe and Africa. Executives estimated that about 10% of the patients studied were from the United States.

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The Associated Press’s Department of Health Sciences is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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What’s new in coronavirus: First pill to treat COVID-19 shows promise, says New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company Merck

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