UK government to roll out Merck antiviral pill, Pfizer COVID pill cuts hospitalisations by 89%

pharmafile | November 8, 2021 | News story | Sales and Marketing  

The UK government will roll out Merck’s COVID-19 antiviral pill, molnupiravir, through drug trial later this month. In early November, the UK became the first country to approve the pill, and will begin a drug trial by early December. Meanwhile, Pfizer’s experimental antiviral pill for COVID has proven to reduce hospitalisation and death by nearly 90%.

The UK government has secured 480,000 courses of the Merck antiviral pill, as well as 250,000 of Pfizer’s COVID pill. Molnupiravir will be marketed as Lagevrio in the UK, and be used for treatment in mild to moderate cases of COVID with at least one risk factor for developing serious illness. These risk factors include older age, obesity, diabetes mellitus and heart disease. Health Secretary Sajid Javid described the approval of molnupiravir as “a gamechanger for the most vulnerable and immunosuppressed.”

Molnupiravir interferes with the virus’s replication, helping to keep virus levels in the body low. This reduces the severity and impact of the disease, and speeds recovery time. Data from clinical trials suggests that the pill has highest efficacy when administered during the early stages of infection.

Meanwhile, Pfizer have released preliminary results of its study on 775 adults, showing that after one month, patients taking the pill along with another antiviral were found to have an 89% reduction in their combined rate of hospitalisation and death.

Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at the UK Health Security Agency told BBC television that “The new Pfizer drug is probably not going to be licensed until the new year some time,” describing Pfizer’s COVID pill as “still likely to be a couple of months away.”

Ana Ovey

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