KENILWORTH, NJ – On Friday, multinational pharmaceutical company Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced that an experimental COVID-19 pill they are working on has cut the number of study cases leading to hospitalization or death by half, and that they have plans to submit the new medication to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – as well as other health officials worldwide – for evaluation and authorization for wide use.
Merck & Co. – which is headquartered in Kenilworth, New Jersey – would be the first-ever company to manufacture a pill to combat COVID-19 if it is approved by the FDA; currently, all treatments consist of injections or via an IV.
Molnupiravir (MK-4482, EIDD-2801), – developed by Merck in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics – is said to have halved the number of both hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in patients who were administered the pill within five days of showing symptoms of infection by the virus.
According to Merck, the study was conducted among 775 adults infected with mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 and who had underlying health problems that made them more susceptible to the illness, such as being overweight or suffering from diabetes or heart conditions. 7.3 percent of the patients in the study who took molnupiravir had been hospitalized or died within a 30 span of time; for recipients of a placebo pill, that number increased to 14.1 percent within the same time period.
After the 30 days had elapsed, no additional patients who had taken molnupiravir passed away, as opposed to eight deaths in the placebo group, Merck officials say, some side effects were suffered by individuals in both groups. The pill, however, was not effective among those who had “severe” COVID-19 cases, they said.
Merck’s results have yet to be officially released to the public, but the company has noted it will do so at a medical meeting in the near future – in addition to plans to submit data to the FDA for review – with Vice President of Merck research Dr. Dean Li saying that he was very impressed by molnupiravir’s performance thus far.
“It exceeded what I thought the drug might be able to do in this clinical trial,” he said. “When you see a 50 percent reduction in hospitalization or death that’s a substantial clinical impact.”
Merck is the same pharmaceutical company that manufactured the highly controversial ivermectin which has been used to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness and lymphatic filariasis for three hundred million people in more than 30 countries. Early in the pandemic Ivermectin was thought to help treat COVID-19 however, current evidence on the use of ivermectin for COVID-19 patients is deemed inconclusive.