Drugmaker Merck asked FDA to authorize molnopiravir for emergency use against Covid-19

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Drugmaker Merck asked federal health officials Monday to greenlight its experimental pill against COVID-19, molnupiravir, for emergency use. The drug is said to treat mild-to-moderate cases of the virus in adults who are most at risk for progressing to more severe cases or being hospitalized. A decision could come in a matter of weeks. It would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19. Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said early results showed patients who received the drug within five days of COVID-19 symptoms had about half the rate of hospitalization and death as those who received a dummy pill. The U.S. government has committed to purchasing enough pills to treat 1.7 million people, assuming the FDA authorizes the drug.

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“At the interim analysis, molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50%; 7.3% of patients who received molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died through Day 29 following randomization, compared with 14.1% of placebo-treated patients,” the company said in a statement. Merck expects to produce 10 million courses of treatment by the end of 2021. At a White House Covid-19 briefing last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the trial results “very encouraging.”