Merck Says COVID-19 Pill Less Effective Than Initially Suggested

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FILE PHOTO: A handout photo of an experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP

Merck announced Friday that updated data on its experimental COVID-19 pill show the drug is less effective than previously reported, and will now move to test treatment for safety.

Merck said the pill, Molnupiravir, showed a 30% reduction in hospitalization and deaths based on data from roughly 1,400 patients. Figures from an interim study released Oct. 1 showed an approximately 50% efficacy based on data from over 1,400 patients.

The drugmaker released the results of the study to the Food and Drug Administration, which will meet to discuss the pill on Nov. 30.

Data from October also showed 7.3% of patients given Molnupiravir twice a day for five days were hospitalized, and none had died by 29 days after starting treatment. Meanwhile, 14.1% of placebo patients were hospitalized.

Updated data showed 6.8% of patients given the drug were hospitalized, and one died while 9.7% of the placebo group went to the hospital.

Merck announced it would seek authorization for its pill Sept. 28, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported. The drug targets the enzyme that allows the virus to replicate itself by introducing errors in the virus’s genetic code.

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Pfizer has also introduced pill to fight coronavirus, Reuters reported. Data from Pfizer’s pill found that out of the 1,200 patient study, the drug reduced COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths by 89% compared with a placebo group.

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