Merck’s COVID Pill Shows Less Efficacy in Updated Data: What's Changed?

The latest data suggests that Molnupiravir is 30% effective against hospitalizations and deaths.

Merck’s COVID Pill Shows Less Efficacy in Updated Data: What's Changed?

Pharma major Merck and Co. announced on Friday that the experimental COVID-19 pill was less effective in cutting hospitalizations and deaths than earlier anticipated. The drug, Molnupiravir was developed in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Ever since the announcement was made, Merck and Co. shares sank drastically.

Earlier in October, the data had shown that Merck's experimental pill, molnupiravir had an efficacy of about 50%. The latest data suggests that it is 30% effective against hospitalizations and deaths.

This analysis was was based on data from 1,433 patients, reported Reuters. The lower efficacy raises questions on whether countries will be interested in buying the pill.

On the other hand, Pfizer Inc's experimental pill, Paxlovid shows an efficacy of about 89% against hospitalisations and deaths. The analysis was derived, based on data from 1,200 patients.

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration announced that Molnupiravir was effective for individuals who are at a higher risk for severe disease, reported Bloomberg.

The FDA has asked the panel to sit on Tuesday and discuss whether Molnupiravir can be authorised for emergency use.

The data on the efficacy came at a time when the world is waking up to a new COVID variant of concern called Omicron. The introduction of pills like Molnupiravir and Paxlovid can potentially be a game-changer if they work.

They will help to treat COVID-19 patients at home, thus evading the risk of hospitalisation and deaths.

Easy Treatment at Home Against COVID-19

The reason why there is a stress on introducing COVID-19 pills is that they can help to fight the virus more effectively. While we have vaccines and booster doses, pills like Molnupiravir and Paxlovid opens up more treatment options.

The pills will help to fight the virus in patients at an early stage. However, before allowing public use, one needs to ensure their safety in the review process.

According to the latest Merck trial analysis, nine deaths were recorded in the placebo group and one was reported in the group receiving the treatment, reported Bloomberg.

The two pills have different mechanisms. While Merck's will introduce errors in the genetic code of the virus, Paxlovid will block an enzyme that Coronavirus needs to multiply.

“We have experience with millions of doses of vaccine, but somehow there are some people who are vaccine-reluctant or vaccine-stubborn. On the other hand, they are open to treatment should they get sick, and of course that’s more hazardous, as neither of these drugs are 100% effective in preventing serious disease. But nonetheless there are some people who are much more treatment-inclined."
William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious disease professor, said in an interview reported Bloomberg.
Reports suggest that a five day course of Molnupiravir can be taken at home. The US has invested $700 per course of the drug, reported Bloomberg.

On Tuesday, Merck and FDA staff will present their data on Molnupiravir to the Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee.

A voting will be done in the afternoon to choose whether to allow authorisation.

Written with inputs from Bloomberg and Reuters.

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