Merck has just announced its new oral COVID-19 treatment, which is designed to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. If approved, it plans to distribute the drug worldwide.
This follows disappointing clinical trials of its two COVID-19 vaccines earlier in the year. Now, the company has returned with a new treatment that could be beneficial for patients.
The treatment, which is the oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir, was originally developed to treat influenza. After a year-long clinical study, the company has found the drug reduces the risk of hospitalization or deaths for coronavirus patients by approximately 50%.
In fact, in the research, they found that there were no deaths among outpatients when they were given molnupiravir, compared to 8 deaths for those receiving a placebo.
Merck now plans to seek Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the U.S. If this goes well, it hopes to roll out the drug to other countries around the world.
According to a Merck spokesperson, molnupiravir could potentially be a very effective treatment against COVID-19, as well as other strains of coronavirus.
What happens next?
If approved, Merck says it plans to manufacture 10 million courses of treatment by the end of this year, which will be followed by more doses in 2022.
Then, it plans to open 170 sites around the world in countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
It has also submitted marketing applications to global drug regulators. If approved, it says it will introduce a pricing system that reflects how much countries are able to pay for healthcare.
In a statement, the company’s chief executive officer and president Robert Davis said, “More tools and treatments are urgently needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become a leading cause of death and continues to profoundly affect patients, families, and societies and strain health care systems all around the world.
With these compelling results, we are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic.”