Covid UK death toll rises by 164
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The chair of Britain’s antivirals taskforce, Eddie Gray, hinted that the UK may buy the drug, known as molnupiravir, during an online briefing about the pill made by pharmaceutical company Merck. But Mr Gray was hesitant to give out too much information about the experimental drug. He said: “We are involved in looking closely at all of the options available, but we’re really not in a position to give out the details around specific conversations at this moment in time.”
He also said that this type of trial data “tends to accelerate all processes of this type”, but he did say that he was unable to give a timeline for the drug’s potential purchase.
Merck, the US pharmaceutical giant and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said early results showed patients who were given the drug within five days of showing symptoms of COVID-19 had half the rate of hospitalisation and death as patients who were given a placebo.
The 775 adult participants who displayed signs of mild-to-moderate symptoms and all were in the high-risk category due to having health problems like diabetes or heart disease.
Merck recorded that 7.3 percent of those who took molnupiravir were hospitalised, compared with 14.1 percent who were given the placebo.
No one who was given the treatment died within 29 days, while there were eight deaths in the placebo group.
If US health officials grant the two firms approval for molnupiravir, it would be the first-ever pill used to treat coronavirus and could even become an over-the-counter medicine option.
While the trial results were released by the companies, they are yet to be peer-reviewed.
But an independent group of medical advisors stopped phase three of the trial early due to positive findings.
US health chief Dr Anthony Fauci, a key voice on infectious diseases in the states, said the results were “very good news”.
Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, said the drug “has looked promising in the lab, but the test is whether it shows benefit in patients”.
He said: “Many drugs fail at this point, so these interim results are very encouraging.
“A safe, affordable, and effective oral antiviral would be a huge advance in the fight against COVID.”
Chair of the UK Bioindustry Association, Ruth McKernan, said oral drugs targeted specifically at the virus that could be taken in your home would be a “really valuable addition to our toolkit”.
She said: “They have good efficacy and should work across many variants.
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“We need a full set of treatments from preventative vaccines, oral treatments for those infected and additional drugs for hospital use.”
Back in September, Pfizer also announced trails of another oral treatment for Covid-19.
The drugmaker is expecting their first results by the end of this year.
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