Promising Merck Pill Perks Hope

Not-yet-peer-reviewed findings from a trial of a new oral COVID-19 treatment show the pill cut the risk of death and hospitalization in half, The Washington Post reports

The results are so promising that an independent board recommended that Merck halt the study early, freeing the drugmaker to apply for emergency authorization.

  • Study participants—a global group of 775—had mild-to-moderate Covid-19 and at least 1 risk factor associated with poor outcomes.
  • In the trial’s placebo group, 53 patients (14.1%), were hospitalized or died—compared to just 28 (7.3%) of those who received the antiviral, molnupiravir.

 
If the results, shared via a news release, hold up, the treatment would deliver on “an elusive goal”: a simple pill for COVID-19, STAT reports.
 
Another perk: It “can be given within 5 days of system onset — a treatment window that is actually feasible in the real world,” tweeted STAT’s Helen Branswell.  

And: The news is especially encouraging for low– and middle-income countries, given vaccine delivery issues and that existing treatments require they be given intravenously.
 
Future: Merck has granted licenses to 5 Indian generic drug manufacturers and pledged to offer a “tiered pricing approach” to increase affordability for poorer countries.

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