Deceiving the coronavirus by making it replicate its genetic material once the antiviral drug has been taken and introducing blocks that look like RNA in the genetic code of the virus generating mutations and the interruption of replication, eliminating the virus, is the task of molnupiravir.
This first antiviral pill against covid-19 was designed by the American laboratory Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which announced on October 1 the effectiveness of its drug to reduce by half the probability of hospitalization and death from covid-19.
The scientists' claim is supported by the results of a study published in early October showing that molnupiravir reduced by 50% the possibility of hospitalization or death in patients at risk of serious illness. With these results, the drug could thus become the first oral antiviral against the pandemic.
Research indicates that data from 775 patients who initially participated in the phase 3 trial called MOVe-OUT on or before August 5, 2021, were evaluated. For the analysis, it was necessary for each participant to be infected with covid-19 in its mild or moderate form, since the pill is designed to act when the virus is replicating rapidly, so the volunteers had to show symptoms in the last five days .
The text of the research refers that all patients were required to have at least one risk factor associated with a poor evolution of the disease when entering the analyzes. An extra fact is that the universal sample was 1.550 patients studied, but due to the convincing results the trial was terminated earlier.
The study found that molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization and death in all key participating subgroups. Seven percent of the volunteers in the group that received the drug were hospitalized and none died. Of the group that received a placebo, 14 percent were hospitalized or died. In addition, approximately 40% of patients with the gamma, delta, and mu viral variants demonstrated a consistent favorable course.
Phase 3 of the trial was conducted in more than 170 planned locations and countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States. Recruitment in America, Europe, and Africa represented 55%, 23%, and 15% of the study population, respectively.
To date, the delta, gamma, and mu variants have accounted for nearly 80% of the cases evaluated in the molnupiravir study. Another great promise revealed in the study on this drug is the demonstration that the pill is active in various preclinical models of Sars-CoV-2, including for prophylaxis, treatment and prevention of transmission.
On the possible side effects of the pill, the researchers said it includes mild ailments such as headaches, so it can be difficult to distinguish from the discomfort produced by the virus.
Transmission. Although its sale has not yet been authorized, molnupiravir is a drug that is used the same as any other pill. As the study indicates, people should only get a prescription from a pharmacy. Then they will take four capsules a day for five days.
In total there will be 40 pills that will be used in the complete treatment for a patient with covid-19 to completely eliminate the virus from their immune system.
Availability and permits. Merck explained that, based on the supporting evidence from the analyzes, it will request emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the authorities of the United States and other countries so that the drug can be available to the public.
Regarding the cost of the drug, Merck explained that the initial plan is that the pills are free in the case of Americans, but it depends on the regulators that authorize their use if there will be additional costs that people must pay.
Venezuela. The President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, announced last Sunday, October 3, that he gave the order to the health cabinet to manage the acquisition of molnupiravir.
Australia. Given the poor evolution of the indicators of the epidemic, this Tuesday announced the purchase of 300.000 doses of this anticovid drug from Merck.
United States. The Government has already bought 1,7 million doses of the drug from Merck, which could be the first antiviral against the coronavirus for oral use, for 1.200 billion dollars.
South Korea. Prime Minister Kim Boo Kyum announced that the country had reserved some 20.000 doses of Merck's experimental drug.
Malaysia. It has reserved 150.000 doses of the drug, the Ministry of Health said.