US drugmaker Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics announced an experimental oral antiviral pill that could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalized for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19.

This could be a potential breakthrough in the treatment of Covid-19. 775 unvaccinated people with comorbid conditions participated in the trial. The 385 who received the active drug and saw their rate of hospitalization or death reduce from the 14.1% seen in the placebo group to 7.3%.

The company has said that they plan to seek U.S. emergency use authorization for the pill as soon as possible and to make regulatory applications worldwide.

Current treatment options include the steroid dexamethasone and monoclonal antibody infusions. However, they are only given once a patient is hospitalized and in a critical condition.

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Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to US President Joe Biden, said the results were “very good news”, but urged caution until the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had reviewed the data.

According to Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, molnupiravir is “a potential additional tool… to protect people from the worst outcomes of COVID,” but vaccination “remains far and away, our best tool against COVID-19.”

Molnupiravir is also being studied in a Phase III trial for preventing infection in people exposed to the coronavirus.

But it is unclear how long the FDA review will take. Dean Li, head of Merck’s research labs, said, “they are going to try to work with alacrity on this” as reported by Reuters.

From : pk.mashable.com

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