Merck pill raises hope of preventing COVID deaths

It's being considered as a potential breakthrough in medical circles.....

Merck on Friday said its experimental antiviral COVID-19 medication reduces the chance of hospitalization or death for patients at risk of severe disease by around 50 percent.

If authorized, Merck's drug, known as molnupiravir, would be the first oral antiviral medication on the market.

Pfizer and Roche are both working on antiviral pills as well.

So far, only antibody cocktails that are administered intravenously are approved for treating COVID-19.

The global Merck trial involved 775 patients. Interim results showed 29 days after taking the pill every 12 hours for five days, patients giveN the pill were 50 percent less likely to die or be hospitalized, compared to those given the placebo.

In another piece of upbeat news, Merck says viral sequencing done so far showed the pill is effective against all variants of the coronavirus, including the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics plan to seek U.S. emergency use authorization for the pill as soon as possible and will submit applications to regulators worldwide.

The drugmaker says it doesn't know how long the FDA will take to review the drug.

The company did not detail side effects but did say men enrolled in the trial had to abstain from sex or use contraception and women of child-bearing age could not be pregnant and had to use birth control.

Merck expects to produce 10 million courses of the treatment by the end of the year and has a contract with the U.S. government to supply 1.7 million courses at $700 per course.

Shares of Merck surged in mid-day Friday trading.

Vaccine makers like Pfizer, BioNtech, and Moderna slumped on the news.

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