Pill to treat COVID-19 cuts the risk of death by half, says Merck, which will seek its emergency authorization

Posted at 3:43 PM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 17:23:55-04

(WXYZ) — Clinical trials show an experimental pill to treat COVID-19 cut the risk of death or hospitalizations by half. The companies who’ve developed the treatment - Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics - say they’ll be seeking Emergency Use Authorization as soon as possible.

It’s an antiviral pill - called Molnupiravir - that is taken orally. And here’s how it works – it gets into the virus’ RNA and interferes with its ability to reproduce itself. Now, there were 775 volunteers in the late-stage clinical trial. All of them were unvaccinated and had at least one underlying health factor like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The participants who became infected with the coronavirus were split into two groups. One group was given a placebo and the other group was given the medication. They took four pills, twice a day, for five days. And preliminary results found that the patients who took the placebo, about 14% of them were hospitalized or died within 29 days. Whereas the patients given the antiviral pill, only 7% were hospitalized or died within 29 days.

Now, you might be wondering what happened after the 29 days? The good news is that no more participants died who were given the oral pills. But unfortunately, 8 more participants who received the placebo passed away.

Participants were given either a placebo or the experimental pill within five days of symptoms starting. The oral medicine seems to benefit those with mild or moderate illness the most. Because previous study results showed the pill did not help patients hospitalized with severe disease. As for side effects, both of the groups reported issues, however, the company did not share what they were. The oral drug also appeared to treat all variants including the Delta strain. Overall, I am happy to hear that we may soon have a medication that could help keep people out of the hospitals. I know many medical professionals who are fatigued and overworked. But it’s imperative that this pill does not replace vaccination. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 reduces the risk of being hospitalized or dying. And it’s the best way for us to end this pandemic.

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