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Merck Says Experimental Covid-19 Pill Cuts Risk of Death by 50%

If approved, the drug would be the first pill effective against Covid-19.


On Friday, Merck announced that its experimental Covid-19 pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by 50% in people recently infected with the coronavirus, AP News reports. The drugmaker will soon ask health officials in the U.S. and abroad to authorize its use. 

If approved, the drug, called molnupiravir, would be the first pill effective against Covid-19; all other authorized therapies in the U.S., such as , require an IV or injection. Still, some people have turned to unapproved, dangerous options, like Ivermectin, the anti-parasite medication commonly used as a horse dewormer. 

Merck and its partner Ridgeback Therapeutics said initial results revealed that patients who were given the drug within five days of exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms experienced approximately half the rate of hospitalization and death as those given the placebo.

Related: Moderna Designed a Covid-19 Vaccine in Just Two Days Thanks to mRNA Technology

Patients took the pill twice a day for five days throughout treatment

The study included 775 adults with mild-to-moderate Covid-19 who were also considered high risk for severe disease. Patients took the pill twice a day for five days over the course of treatment; 7.3% of those who took molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died at the end of 30 days while that figure jumped to 14.1% in those taking the placebo. Though both groups of participants experienced unspecified side effects, they were slightly more common in the group that was given the placebo. 

Early findings revealed that the drug didn't help people who were already hospitalized with severe disease. 

Merck's pill works by preventing the coronavirus from copying its genetic code and reproducing itself, and it has been similarly effective against other viruses. 

Related: Pfizer Says Covid-19 Vaccine Efficacy Weakens Over Time

Pfizer and Roche are conducting similar trials 

Merck executives intend to submit the data for review by the Food and Drug Administration in the coming days, and the FDA could extend approval within weeks, after which the drug could quickly hit the market. If the pill is authorized, the U.S. will purchase 1.7 million doses. Merck has committed to producing 10 million doses by the year's end and has contracts with governments across the globe. 

The price of the drug has yet to be announced. 

Pfizer and Roche are among several other companies conducting similar drug trials, and those reports could be available in the coming weeks and months. 

Health experts such as leading U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci have said that a Covid-19 pill taken at the first sign of symptoms could offer a significant advantage in the continued fight against the pandemic.