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Promising Results From Antiviral Pill May Change the Game for COVID-19 Effects, Finds Clinical Trial


Merck

Back in August, it was reported that a simple pill taken at the onset of symptoms for COVID-19 reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 50%.

Now 1.7 million doses of that drug, an antiviral agent called Molnupiravir produced by Merck, have been secured for use in the U.S. and represents the first orally-ingested treatment for the virus.

The pill acts like a saboteur, incorporating RNA-like building blocks into the fabric of the virus. If they are reproduced, these defunct RNA-imposters ruin vital processes in the SARS-CoV-2 ability to replicate, and the virus dies.

“When the viral RNA then gets replicated to produce new viruses, it contains numerous errors, so-called mutations. As a result, the pathogen can no longer reproduce,” said Florian Kabinger, a co-author of the study that discovered the effectiveness in August. 

Antiviral drugs are common, and prescribed for things like the common cold, and even HIV. One called Remdesivir has already been shown to prevent serious symptom onset by 85%, but most be administered through IV in a medical setting.

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Molnupiravir was also effective in other COVID-19 variants, including Delta and Mu, and was so effective overall, the company halted further planned trials to submit an emergency use application to the FDA.

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National Geographic points out that it’s not clear who would be available or cleared to take the drug, as the U.S. government paid $700 per dose for it, but having an option for those who are elderly, or with underlying condition to take at home could in some cases solve both the problem of the risk of death—and the risk of hospital overflows should further variants arise.

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