Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Pfizer and Merck & Co announced new trials for their new experimental oral antiviral drugs for Covid-19. The companies are looking to develop an easy-to-administer treatment for the disease.
Pfizer said that its trial will enrol 1,140 non-hospitalised adults diagnosed with coronavirus infection who are not at risk of severe illness. The patients in the trial will be given the experimental pill and a low dose of ritonavir, an older medication widely used in combination treatments for HIV infection. Pfizer’s pill, known as PF-07321332 is designed to block the activity of a key enzyme that is needed for the coronavirus to multiply.
The pharmaceutical giant began a different trial of PF-07321332 in July, in adults with Covid-19 infection who are at high risk of becoming severely ill due to underlying health conditions. The company expects initial results from the study in autumn. If the trial is successful, Pfizer said it would file for a potential emergency use authorisation by the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Merck said its new trial will study the experimental drug molnupiravir to prevent Covid-19 among adults in the same household as someone diagnosed with symptomatic infection. The drug is a type of antiviral designed to introduce errors into the RNA of the virus that eventually prevents it from replicating. The company and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are already conducting a late-stage trial of the treatment in non-hospitalised patients.
In June, Merck said that the US government agreed to pay around $1.2 billion for 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir, if proven to work, and if authorised by regulators. The company is expected to file for US emergency use authorisation in the second half of 2021 at the earliest. Early trial results for molnupiravir yielded promising results, and experts believe it could help cut back on the time that infected individuals remain positive for the virus.
Pfizer, Merck, and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG have made the most progress in developing the first antiviral pill to treat or prevent Covid-19. Currently, the only approved antiviral treatment for Covid-19 in the US is Gilead Science Inc’s. intravenous drug Veklury (remdesivir).
In June, Roche and its partner, Atea Pharmaceuticals said that early data from the trial of their experimental oral antiviral, AT-527, showed that it lowered the viral load in hospitalised patients.
What is Molnupiravir?
The new oral drug that Merck is developing works by stopping the replication of multiple RNA viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Researchers are currently investigating the drug as a potential treatment for Covid-19 in humans. According to Merck, animal studies have suggested that the medication is “safe” and was found to be able to suppress the disease within 24 hours, making them hopeful about the results.
Currently, there is no oral or outpatient medication to treat people who have been infected with Covid-19. Based on its effectiveness, molnupiravir could prove to be a “game-changer.”
Jamie Alan, Ph.D, and assistant professor of pharmacology at the Michigan State University said that the reduction in positive viral cultures is “great” but points out that it’s unclear at this point how or what that will translate in the real world. Alan said: “Whether this will decrease deaths or disease severity would really be the true measures of success.”
Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University said that the results are interesting. “I hope the upcoming trials, which will include more patients, will also show beneficial effects,” he said.
Watkins said: “It is exciting to potentially have an oral antiviral agent with activity against SARS-CoV2.”
To many, these drugs sound like another saviour of the pandemic, however, they are just another medication to shove down the throats of the masses to keep us dumbed down and ill. These drugs will only continue the fear-mongering when what we should really be fearful of is the short and long-term consequences of these pills.