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Merck COVID Pill – A New Way to Treat the Virus?

Could molnupiravir change the way we handle the pandemic?

By:  |  October 2, 2021  |    565 Words
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A new medicine could be here to treat the coronavirus, and it’s getting a lot of attention. Drug companies Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics announced that they have been testing a pill to treat COVID-19. The companies say the pill, called “molnupiravir,” can halve hospital stays and deaths from the virus. They will apply to get Emergency Use Authorization from the government, so members of the public can start using the medicine. If they get approval, this will be the first antiviral pill that is used to treat COVID.

If approved, the pill would be given to patients who have been diagnosed with COVID but who aren’t in hospital. Patients would take the medicine twice per day for five days – that would be one “course.”

The medicine was tested in people who had recently caught COVID, within the first five days of showing symptoms. The test patients also had one extra “risk factor” such as old age, obesity, or diabetes, which means they had more chance of getting seriously ill.

“The key point here is that these [pills] must be used early, either preventively or in the first few days of an infection, before it gets down into the lungs and throughout the body,” said Eric Topol, a scientist.

A Game-Changer?

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The new treatment has been described as a “game-changer” in the pandemic.

“Being the first oral antiviral in the outpatient setting to show a benefit is pretty remarkable,” said Nick Kartsonis, who is in charge of clinical research at Merck. “It’s clearly an important point in the evolution of our fight against Covid-19.”

Amesh Adalja, at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said that “An oral antiviral” that can stop people needing to go to hospital “would be game changing.” He added that the treatments now being used are “cumbersome” and “challenging” to use. “A simple oral pill would be the opposite of that.”

The head of the White House’s COVID-19 team, Jeff Zients, said that if the drug is approved, it would be an “additional tool in our toolbox” to treat the virus. It seems likely the medication will be approved, since the government has already signed a deal to buy almost 2 million courses, at $700 each – or a total of $1.2 billion. Merck said it plans to produce 10 million courses of the drug by the end of the year.

What Does This Mean for Vaccines?

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If one company makes a pill to treat COVID successfully, it may not be long before other companies make the same kind of medicine. In fact, Pfizer, one of the companies that has made a vaccine, is already working on a similar tablet.

People who don’t want to take the vaccines may be more comfortable taking a pill to treat the virus if they catch it.

With President Biden and some state governors using vaccine mandates to force Americans to get vaccinated, how could a pill affect the rules? If more and better oral treatments are made, does it mean vaccine mandates won’t be seen as necessary?

If the Merck pill is approved, how could it change the way we handle the COVID pandemic?

Try a quiz based on this article!

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