Oral Drug Likely Effective Against COVID-19: REPORT

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As researchers hunt for ways to treat severe COVID-19 infections, a new trial will ask whether an old arthritis drug can prevent serious complications in the first place.

By Harry Wilmerding (DCNF) Pharmaceutical company Merck announced Wednesday that its oral experimental COVID-19 drug is likely to be effective against multiple strains, including the delta variant, Reuters reported.

The company said that its new drug, molnupiravir, targets the enzyme that allows the virus to replicate itself by introducing errors in the virus’s genetic code, Reuters reported.  The treatment works best in those with early stages of infection.

Other COVID-19 treatments target the spike protein which is used to differentiate between variants, Reuters reported.

“It’s a really nice observation because it gives us confidence that it will work the same across the variants that are already out there, and potentially against any new variants that may emerge,” Jay Grobler, head of infectious disease and vaccines at Merck, Bloomberg reported.

The drug is in the late stages of testing which is expected to end in November, according to Bloomberg. Merck is developing the drug with help from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

“These in-vitro data suggest the molnupitravir is effective against SARS-CoV-2 variant, particularly when initiated early in the course of illness,” A Merck spokesperson told The Hill. “We are hopeful that molnupiravir may play a key role in helping patients and reducing the burden on healthcare systems.

Merck is not the only company exploring treatments for severe cases of COVID-19, according to the Hill. Pfizer and BioNTech, and Swiss health care company Roche all said they are testing a pill form drug to treat more serious virus cases. 

 

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