COVID antiviral pills: A clinical trial success story
The pharmaceutical firm Merck announced last week that an antiviral pill it’s developing can cut hospitalizations and deaths among people with COVID-19 by half. The results haven’t yet been peer reviewed. But if the drug candidate, molnupiravir, is authorized by regulators, it would be the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19. By contrast, the other currently authorized drugs must be delivered intravenously or injected.
A pill could make treating patients earlier on in their infection much easier — and more effective. It could also keep hospitals from overflowing, especially in places where vaccination rates are still low, such as many low- and lower-middle-income countries. Molnupiravir was so effective in a phase 3 trial involving COVID-19-positive people at risk of severe illness that clinicians halted enrolment early.