Merck’s drug raises hope for oral COVID-19 treatment - Kalkine Media

October 03, 2021 07:48 PM AEDT | By Anam Siddiqui
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  • Positive results have been received from the Phase 3 Clinical trial of a new drug developed by Merck and Co and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. 
  • The drug molnupiravir could potentially reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by 50% due to COVID-19.
  • Merck indicated that it intends to produce 10 million courses of treatment by the end of 2021. 

Merck and Co (NYSE: MRK) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have announced promising results from the Phase 3 Clinical trial of a new oral drug, molnupiravir. The drug could reduce the risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 by 50%. The positive results were achieved on people who took the drug molnupiravir within five days of being tested. 

RELATED ARTICLE: Merck/Ridgeback’s COVID-19 oral drug shows promising Phase 2 data

Triggered by the breakthrough results, Merck’s share price surged by US$6.3 on Friday while shares of other vaccine companies nosedived. Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA) shares slipped by US$43.77 on 1 October 2021. 

Can molnupiravir prove effective in combating the pandemic?

Many are pinning hopes on positive interim results for molnupiravir, the first oral antiviral effective against the coronavirus. The drug, molnupiravir, inhibits the process of coronavirus replication inside the body. Seeking emergency authorization for coronavirus treatment, the companies plan to soon submit the data to the United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for a review. 

One other antiviral drug, remdesivir, has been approved by the US for COVID-19, in addition to three antibody therapies that have been allowed emergency usage. However, unlike molnupiravir, all these drugs cannot be administered orally. 

COVID-19, Vaccination

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However, molnupiravir was tested on patients who had mild-to-moderate coronavirus infection and had at least one risk factor such as old age, heart disease, obesity, etc. The completion of Phase 3 trials for molnupiravir is pending. 

Merck kicks off production

The positive results from the Phase-1 and Phase-2 trials have bolstered the Company to commence the production of molnupiravir in large numbers. As a result, Merck indicated that it intends to produce 10 million courses of treatment by the end of 2021, while it anticipates producing more doses in 2022. 

Earlier this year, the Company agreed to supply approximately 1.7 million drug courses to the US government, subject to authorization by the US FDA. Furthermore, it also entered into an agreement with other governments, pending regulatory authorization. 

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Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) also recently indicated that it had commenced a large study testing its investigational oral antiviral drug for preventing infection among people exposed to the coronavirus. 

ALSO READ: US COVID-19 daily death toll crosses 2000: What lessons should Australia learn?

Bottom Line

The delta variant continues to be increase challenges for the world, struggling to come out of the woods. With the global COVID-19 deaths hitting 5 million at the start of October, the recent progress in oral drug development against coronavirus is significant.


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