Merck’s COVID-19 pill cuts risk of death, hospitalization by 50% in study

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

Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics plan to seek U.S. emergency use authorization for the pill as soon as possible, and to submit applications to regulatory agencies worldwide. Due to the positive results, the Phase 3 trial is being stopped early at the recommendation of outside monitors.

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

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

Rivals including Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG (ROG.S) are racing to develop an easy-to-administer antiviral pill for COVID-19 but so far, only antibody cocktails – which have to be given intravenously – are approved for treating non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

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Source: Reuters