Merck says its new Covid pill reduces the risk of hospitalization, death by half for some patients
Looks like Merck just beat Pfizer to the punch.
Merck announced Friday that an experimental COVID pill it has developed reduced hospitalizations and deaths by 50% in people recently infected with COVID.
The company will soon ask health officials in the US and abroad to authorize use of the drug.
The news came as a welcome surprise to the public, although COVID cases are already waning in the US and in hard-hit economies in Asia, the drug could create “a real therapeutic advance” that could dramatically decrease the risk of death from COVID.
Per the NYT, “the Merck pill’s efficacy was lower than that of monoclonal antibody treatments, which mimic antibodies that the immune system generates naturally when fighting the virus. Those drugs have been in high demand recently, but they are expensive, are typically given intravenously, and have proved cumbersome and labor-intensive for hospitals and clinics to administer. Studies have shown that they reduce hospitalizations and deaths 70 to 85 percent in similar high-risk Covid patients.”
The Merck drug is significantly chemically different from the Pfizer drug that’s in its final round of studies, which means there’s the possibility of creating a cocktail of anti-viral treatments for COVID. Merck has said it can produce 10MM pills by the end of this year, and Dr. Gottlieb said he expects they’ll ramp up production quickly by partnering with other companies.
Merck partnered with a small firm called Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop the drug, which is called Molnupiravir. While the study results haven’t yet been peer reviewed, at least one independent group of medical experts have given the research their blessing.
“This is a milestone in the fight against COVID,” Dr. Gottlieb said.
So, is the prospect of a return to “normality” really on the table? I suppose we’re about to find out.