Thursday, 4 November 2021

First pill to treat Covid gets approval in UK

I was delighted to hear the news today that the first pill designed to treat symptomatic Covid has been approved by the UK medicines regulator.

The tablet - molnupiravir - will be given twice a day to vulnerable patients recently diagnosed with the disease.

In clinical trials the pill, originally developed to treat flu, cut the risk of hospitalisation or death by about half.

Molnupiravir, developed by the US drug company Merck (known as MSD in the UK), is the first dedicated oral antiviral medication for Covid.

The pill is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus, preventing it from spreading in the body.

It works by targeting an enzyme the virus uses to make copies of itself.

Merck have said that should make it equally effective against new variants of the virus as it evolves in the future.

In clinical trials on 775 patients in the study found:

  • 7.3% of those given molnupiravir were hospitalised.
  • that compares with 14.1% of patients who were given a placebo or dummy pill.
  • there were no deaths in the molnupiravir group, but eight patients who were given a placebo in the trial later died of Covid.

Trial results suggest molnupiravir needs to be taken early after symptoms develop to have an effect.

Merck is the first company to report trial results of a pill to treat Covid, but other companies are working on similar treatments. 

UPDATE: Pfizer have announced their anti-viral treatment cuts hospitalisation rates by 89% in clinical trials.