New pill appears to offer “phenomenal” Covid protection

A therapeutic pill by pharmaceutical giant Merck appears to offer what some doctors are calling “phenomenal” protection against Covid-19, even in very vulnerable patients. 

Partnered with a company called Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the new antiviral pill, called molnupiravir, has no known concerning side-effects, and appears to drastically reduce one’s risk of death or hospitalisation from Covid-19.

The drug, which is among the first oral medicines for combating Covid-19, is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the novel coronavirus, preventing it from propagating itself. However, the company says it cannot interact with human cells.

According to Merck, adverse effects were found to be more or less the same in both test subjects and placebo patients.

During studies into the drug’s effects, which involved 775 volunteers worldwide, patients who received the pill were found to be 50% less likely to die or be hospitalised than those in the placebo control group.

Of the volunteers that received the drug, only 7% were hospitalised, and none died. By comparison, 14% in the placebo group were hospitalised, 8 of whom died.

“I think it will translate into many thousands of lives being saved worldwide, where there’s less access to monoclonal antibodies, and in this country, too,” said Dr. Robert Shafer, an infectious disease specialist and expert on antiviral therapy from Stanford University.

While Merck’s share prices soared 9% in the wake of the drug’s effects being announced, rival pharma companies’ tumbled.

Moderna shares fell 13% in midday trading, while Pfizer dropped 1.3%. American shares of BioNTech plunged 11%.

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