The antiviral drug Covid can cut the chance of hospitalisation in half

Image credit: The Guardian

An experimental treatment for severe epilepsy Interim clinical study findings suggest that Covid reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death by nearly half.

The molnupiravir tablet was given twice a day to patients who had recently been diagnosed with HIV.

Merck, a pharmaceutical company based in the United States, said the trial’s results were so promising that outside observers sought to end it early.

In the following two weeks, it plans to file for emergency use authorization for the medicine in the United States.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to US President Joe Biden, the findings were “extremely good news,” but he advised caution until the data was reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Molnupiravir would be the first oral antiviral drug for Covid-19 if it is approved by regulators.

The pill, which was originally created to treat influenza, works by inserting faults into the virus’s genetic coding, stopping it from propagating throughout the body.

Most Covid vaccines function by targeting an enzyme that the virus uses to replicate itself, rather than the spike protein on the exterior of the virus.

That should make it similarly powerful against new strains of the virus as it evolves in the future, according to Merck, which is known in the UK as MSD.

According to the results of the trials, molnupiravir must be given soon after symptoms appear in order to have an effect. After poor findings, an earlier study on individuals who had already been hospitalised with severe COVID was terminated.

Merck is the first business to announce the findings of a pill trial to treat Covid, but other companies are developing similar medicines. Pfizer, a US competitor, has recently begun late-stage studies of two antiviral pills, while Roche, a Swiss business, is working on a similar treatment.

“A safe, inexpensive, and effective oral antiviral would be a tremendous advance in the fight against Covid,” said Prof. Peter Horby, an infectious disease expert at the University of Oxford.

“In the lab, molnupiravir seemed good, but the real test was whether it helped people.” Many medications fail at this stage, therefore these preliminary findings are highly ppromising”.