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The American pharmaceutical company Merck has developed a pill that in studies has proven effective against Covid-19.
In the tests, one group received the drug, called Molnupiravir, as soon as they were diagnosed with Covid-19. Another group received a placebo pill. Of those who received Molnupiravir, only 7.3 percent needed to be hospitalized, compared with 14.1 percent for the placebo group.
The fact that Molnupiravir comes as a tablet is also an advantage compared to current treatments that require injections. A tablet can be taken by anyone and it is also much easier to distribute tablets.
Merck now hopes to get quick approval of Molnupiravir and expects to be able to produce ten million doses before the end of the year.
Complement - not substitute for vaccines
The study followed 775 adults who had underlying diseases that put them at risk. Patients received either Molnupiravir or a placebo within five days of being diagnosed with Covid-19.
Initially, twice as many people were intended to participate in the study. But the results were so promising that an external expert group judged it to be unethical to wait to seek approval of the treatment. Merck, therefore, completed the study ahead of schedule and is now seeking prompt approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Molnupiravir could hopefully before the end of this year become an important complement to vaccines.
"This is not a replacement for vaccines, but there are two strategies that can be used together to jointly dramatically reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill," said Andrew Pekosz, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University, in a comment to Medical Xpress.