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Merck applies for US authorization of COVID-19 pill


Merck & Co said on Monday it has applied for emergency use authorization in the United States for its oral drug to treat mild-to-moderate patients of COVID-19.

The treatment, molnupiravir, has been developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. If authorized, it would be the first oral antiviral medication.

Data released last week showed that molnupiravir could halve the chances of death or being hospitalized for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19. read more

Existing drugs include Gilead Sciences infused antiviral remdesivir and generic steroid dexamethasone, both of which are generally only given once a patient has already been hospitalized.

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 and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG 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.

Molnupiravir: Merck tablet for COVID-19 found effective 

A planned interim analysis of 775 patients in Merck’s study found that 7.3% of those given molnupiravir were either hospitalized or had died by 29 days after treatment, compared with 14.1% of placebo patients. There were no deaths in the molnupiravir group, but there were eight deaths of placebo patients.

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