American multinational pharmaceutical company Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics say they plan to seek “emergency authorisation” for their new antiviral pill to treat Covid-19.
Merck, headquartered in Kenilworth in New Jersey, says a late-stage clinical trial showed the drug cut the risk of hospitalisation or death in half.
Describing the results as “remarkable”, Merck said an interim analysis of data from 775 patients showed that none of the participants receiving molnupiravir had died during the first 29 days of the study, versus eight who received a placebo.
Merck says its relatively cheap Covid antiviral pill halves the risk of hospitalisation and death.
If the US Food and Drug Administration authorises the use of molnupiravir pills it would be the first treatment of its kind.
The manufacturer says the twice-daily pill is prescribed for five days to patients who have recently been diagnosed with Covid-19.
Merck – better known outside the US and Canada as MSD – are the manufactures of ivermectin – the drug whose use for the treatment of Covid-19 remains controversial.
Ivermectin is approved in the US under the brand name STROMECTOL. It is used for the treatment of intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis.
It remains to be seen if the Merck “remarkable” pill would be an alternative or a complement to the Covid-19 jabs.
Commenting on the development on Friday, top US medical adviser on the coronavirus Dr. Anthony Fauci, said: “The F.D.A. will look at the data, and in their usual very efficient and effective way, will examine the data as quickly as they possibly can, and then it will be taken from there.”
Pfizer and Roche are also developing antiviral pills to treat Covid-19.