One of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies plans to seek emergency use authorization for an antiviral COVID-19 therapy that can be taken orally from home, which reportedly reduces the risk of hospitalization by 50 percent.
If approved and effective, the treatment could put those with infections at reduced risk for complications. Such a drug could also disarm public officials who continue to use the coronavirus pandemic to bolster the size and reach of government.
Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. joined up with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP. The two companies say they have come up with an oral antiviral medicine called molnupiravir.
The Wall Street Journal reported the drug is akin to Tamiflu for COVID. If true, the medicine could change the trajectory of the pandemic, as Merck has said it is effective against all variants of COVID.
Merck reported that it had seen so much success with the pill during trials that it contacted the Food and Drug Administration early about moving forward with distributing it.
According to a company news release, the Merck study evaluated data from 775 patients, with plans to add up to 1,500. Merck said the study was stopped due to “compelling interim efficacy results.”
The company will officially ask for FDA authorization in the coming weeks. Company CEO Rob Davis signaled the new medicine might be a game-changer.
“The ability to take what is a devastating disease like Covid-19 and potentially make it a manageable situation through what is a very convenient round of administration, which is an oral pill you can take at home, has important implications for the ability to manage the ongoing pandemic,” Davis said, WSJ reported.
Davis made the comments after he reviewed a study which has not yet been made public.
Some potentially promising information: In trials, those who took the drug and those who took a placebo reported similar side effects. Those side effects were not disclosed.
More importantly, during trials, no deaths were recorded among those who took molnupiravir. Hospitalizations also fell sharply for those who tested positive for COVID and took the pill, Merck said in a news release.
Phase three trials found that 7.3 percent of people given molnupiravir were hospitalized within 29 days, the company’s said in a statement. Meanwhile, 14.1 percent of those given the placebo were hospitalized or died.
In all, eight people who were given a placebo, and not the drug itself, died.
Davis touted the arrival of a therapeutic in a statement on Merck’s website.
“More tools and treatments are urgently needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become a leading cause of death and continues to profoundly affect patients, families, and societies and strain health care systems all around the world,” he said. “With these compelling results, we are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic.”
We would be wise of course to cautiously eye studies from companies that stand to generate billions of dollars from FDA approval. But if Merck’s pill is what it is purported to be, this pandemic is one step closer to being over and done with.
Not only could more lives be saved where vaccines have failed, but government officials using COVID infections to alarm people and violate their civil liberties will lose the ability to justify forced mandates and lockdowns.
COVID is probably with us forever, just as common colds and influenza are. An at-home therapeutic which is effective against the virus could relegate it to being on par with other common illnesses.