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Antiviral pill shown to be effective in treating COVID-19 in phase 2 trial

Merck
Posted at 1:38 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 13:43:20-05

An antiviral pill has shown to be effective in treating COVID-19, according to Phase 2 trial results released late last week.

Should those promising results continue in large-scale Phase 3 trials, the drug could become vital in the fight against COVID-19 — a disease that still has few treatment options for those suffering from mild to moderate cases.

The drug, molnupiravir, is being produced by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which is partnering with Merck in scaling up drug trials. While COVID-19 vaccines attack the spike proteins that give the viral cell their distinctive shape, molnupiravir attacks the reproduction centers of the cells, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The goal of the drug is to neuter the contagion so it can’t easily spread from person to person — and results of the drug’s Phase 2 trials appears to show it’s doing just that.

According to Ridgeback and Merck, 182 people were given either molnupiravir or a placebo within a week of developing symptoms of COVID-19, and within four days of a positive test. None of those who took the drug twice a day for five days were detected to have any infectious virus through nasal swabs, while 24% of those who received the placebo were recorded to have infectious virus.

In addition, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics co-founder Wayne Holman told the Wall Street Journal that the findings suggest — but don’t prove — that the drug can reduce illness.

While four “adverse events” were reported among subjects, none of them were linked to side effects of the drug.

“We are very pleased to share our initial Phase 2 infectivity data at this important conference, which remains at the forefront for critical clinical scientific information in infectious diseases,” said Dr. Wendy Painter, the chief medical officer of Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. “At a time where there is unmet need for antiviral treatments against SARS-CoV-2, we are encouraged by these preliminary data.”

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has only approved a handful drugs approved to treat COVID-19. Remdesivir and Dexamethasone are only approved for use in cases of severe disease and hospitalization. Molnupiravir could potentially be a game-changer since it’s being tested for use with less severe cases of the disease.

It will likely be several months before molnupiravir is approved for widespread use — it still needs to fill and complete Phase 3 trials before the CDC and HHS can even review findings.