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Just a few days ago the pharmaceutical laboratory Merck & Co. made a request to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA, for its acronym in English) to authorize the use of the drug molnupiravir, an antiviral pill against covid-19.
Merck recently announced that its new pill to treat COVID-19 reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by about 50 percent.
On the other hand, 7.3% of patients receiving molnupiravir were hospitalized or died until day 29 after randomization, compared with 14.1% of patients treated with placebo.
In short, Merck’s proposal is to provide a drug that patients can have at home, which is highly effective in treating adults who have been infected with coronavirus, which seeks to minimize the possibility of developing complications, or but still, being admitted to the hospital for the virus.
Nevertheless, There are still several doubts about the effectiveness of Merck’s new pill to treat covid-19Therefore, we will solve some doubts about this new drug.
What is molnupiravir and how does it work?
Molnupiravir is the active component of the new pill against covid-19 from the pharmaceutical laboratory Merck and was initially developed to treat influenza.
This drug is administered orally in a capsule, which has the ability to inhibit the «replication» of the virus that causes covid-19 through a mechanism that causes the cells responsible for reproducing the virus «to make mistakes and generate copies defective ”.
Is molnupiravir effective?
Analysis of data from a randomized trial showed that the risk of hospitalization decreased by 50%, the laboratory announced. There were 385 patients who received the drug and 377 who were administered a placebo.
The Result: Of the group of people who took the drug, only 28 were hospitalized, compared to 53 in the placebo group.
Who can take anticovid pills?
The pills are intended for people who have already contracted the covid virus 19However, it is necessary that they have not yet been admitted to a hospital, that is, they are not suitable for people who show a «serious» progression of the disease.
It should be noted that only unvaccinated individuals who were considered high risk participated in phase 3 of the Merck clinical trial, that is, older people or those with medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
Do the pills work to prevent the virus?
No, molnupiravir pills are designed to be taken as soon as possible once a person shows symptoms of covid.
The best time to take them is just when the virus is replicating rapidly and the immune system has not yet prepared a defense; however, some researchers believe that the pills should be taken even before symptoms are shown.
Are there any side effects from taking the Merck covid pill?
Studies conducted by the Merck & Co. laboratory have not found any side effects that would indicate that it should be discontinued.
During the trials, only 1.3% of the participants taking molnupiravir dropped out of treatment due to side effects; For the study, participants were asked to refrain from sexual intercourse or the use of contraceptives because the active component could have the potential to cause birth defects, however, this is a routine practice with various treatments such as cancer chemotherapy.
Would the Merck pill replace vaccines?
No, vaccination is the most effective shield against covid-19, however, the use of antivirals against this disease will play an important role in limiting its severity, especially in older people and patients with more immune systems. weak for whom vaccination is less effective.
When will the pills be available?
As we mentioned at the beginning, Merck has already submitted an application requesting authorization for the use of molnupiravir to the FDA. If all goes well, regulators could authorize the drug even before the end of this year.
How much will the treatment cost?
The cost of the treatment will cost approximately $ 700However, in the case of the United States, it is expected that the pills will be free for those who suffer from the disease, as is the case of the covid vaccines.
Naturally, each country will have its own restrictions on this drug and later it will be known if there will be additional costs that people must pay in each case and place.
Will there be enough anticovid pills?
The Merck laboratory hopes to be able to produce enough pills for 10 million people by the end of this year.
In fact, the US government has already ordered 1.7 million complete treatments; That number is nowhere near the number of pills needed by all people in the United States who get sick from coronavirus.
Is Merck’s antivcovid pill the only one on the way?
No. Pfizer is developing a similar pill, as are Atea Pharmaceuticals and Roche, but results from their clinical trials are hardly expected in the coming months. They are unlikely to be available for use before next year.