New Pill Cuts COVID Hospitalizations In Half

( Pharmaceutical company Merck has developed a new antiviral drug that, if approved, would be the first pill to treat COVID-19, marking a major advance in combatting the pandemic.

Developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, this new COVID pill, known as molnupiravir, would allow at-risk patients to be treated from home. And the studies are promising. Initial clinical trials show that the pill could cut hospitalizations and deaths from COVID by half.

Merck said it would apply to the FDA to receive emergency use authorization for molnupiravir within the next week or so, and is also seeking approval for use in several other countries as well.

The initial trial tracked 775 adults with mild to moderate cases of COVID who were considered at higher risk due to comorbidities like obesity, diabetes or heart disease. Half were given a five-day course of the pill and half received a placebo.

Fourteen percent of patients in the placebo group ended up hospitalized, whereas only 7 percent of those who received molnupiravir had to be hospitalized. There were no deaths in the drug group during the study, however eight of those in the placebo group ultimately died of COVID.

The data from the study was released on Friday, but it has not yet been peer-reviewed. However, the results were so encouraging, an independent group of medical experts who monitored the trial recommended it be stopped early.

In Friday’s press release on the study, only limited information on side-effects was included, but the company said rates were similar between both the placebo group and the group taking molnupiravir.

According to Merck, the US government has already made an advance purchase of 1.7 million doses of molnupiravir for $1.2 billion. The company said it would use a “tiered pricing approach” to reflect each country’s ability to pay for the medication.

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci called monupiravir “a big deal,” telling Jonathan Karl that they are “really looking forward to the implementation” of the treatment. Of course, because he is Anthony Fauci, he also added that this new treatment is in no way a replacement for the COVID vaccines.

Molnupiravir works by interfering with the coronavirus’ ability to replicate its genetic code and reproduce itself.