A coveted pill can halve the risk of going to the hospital or dying, according to the results of a “game-changing” trial.
American pharmaceutical companies Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have revealed that their antiviral drug Molonoperavir has reduced the rate of acute covid in a 50% study.
This could be the first pill to be taken home after a positive test for people at high risk of covid.
The UK’s antiviral task force – which hopes to have two drugs in use by the end of the year – is in talks with manufacturers to negotiate an agreement.
Dr Darya Hazoda, vice president of research at Merck, said: “This is a very exciting day for patients in the global fight against coyotes.
“This is the first antiviral that has been shown to be useful in Coved’s outpatient settings. I think this game is changing.
The results of the study were taken from drug tests on 775 people who had recently tested positive for the virus but were not seriously ill.
They showed that 7.3% of people who were given molnoperivir were hospitalized, compared to 14.1% who were not given the drug.
The companies were pleased with the results, ended their trials ahead of schedule and will now apply for licenses from drug regulators in the United States.
The first of its kind, the drug works by forcing errors in the genetics of the corona virus when it is regenerated.
Doing so cripples the virus and stops it from multiplying as quickly as possible, preventing it from getting into the body and allowing the immune system to block the code.
Scientists in the UK welcomed the news but said the drug would be targeted at the most vulnerable.
“A lot of people need to be treated to be admitted to a hospital or to die,” said Peter Horby, a professor at Oxford University.
And Dr Peter English, former chairman of the British Medical Association, added: “In my opinion, these drugs could play a role if you identify people at risk for more serious illnesses first.”
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