Pharma exec says anti-COVID pill Molnupiravir works against variants, reduces hospitalization

Published October 23, 2021, 10:21 AM

by Gabriela Baron

Experimental oral coronavirus disease (COVID-19) antiviral drug, Molnupiravir, is said to be effective against known variants of the virus, including the highly transmissible Delta variant, and reduce the risk of hospitalization for patients.

Molnupiravir (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a recent international clinical trial of 775 patients initially enrolled in the phase 3 trial in at-risk, non-hospitalized adult patients with mild to moderate COVID-19, the drug was shown to cup the risk of hospitalization or death by half.

“Basically we saw, there was a 50 percent reduction in hospitalization or death. In the placebo pill, 14 percent required hospitalization versus only seven percent in the actual pill,” Dr. Joel Santiaguel, who is leading the trials at the Quirino Memorial Medical Center, said in a virtual forum.

The data, which was released by Merck, also showed that Molnupiravir demonstrated efficacy among the COVID-19 variants Gamma, Delta, and Mu.

Local official of MSD Pharmaceutical Dr. Beaver Tamesis said based on their initial trials, Molnupiravir was able to kill the virus in five days, preventing the progression of symptoms.

“Molnupiravir was developed as an antiviral. Specific antiviral copying or blocking the RNA replication of the virus,” Tamesis said, noting that the drug could block the transmission of the virus.

“In our pre-clinical studies where we monitored what kind of output which the patient had in terms of the virus to the nasal passages, by day five, it was zero. Basically, in five days there was no more virus coming out of the patient because it’s actually been destroyed,” he noted.

Tamesis also underscored the importance of early intervention to stop viral replication, as it may reduce progression to more severe COVID-19.

“We really want to think about prevention. We want to think about early treatment. And we want to think about this particular phase as catching the patient before they become severe. We now have a potential treatment here, when the virus is actively multiplying,” he said.

“So how can we prevent the patient from progressing from the early infection phase down to the inflammatory phase? If you can stop the virus in its tracks, you can prevent the progression and this is measured by progression to need for hospitalization.”

Drug developer MSD Pharmaceuticals said the 5-day course treatment of the oral drug would cost $700 in the U.S. or roughly P35,000.

MSD has already submitted an Emergency Use Authorization application to the United States Food and Drug Administration for Molnupiravir.