WHO recommends Merck’s COVID-19 pill

pharmafile | March 3, 2022 | News story | Business Services, Medical Communications  

WHO have recommended Merck’s pill, molnupiravir, for the treatment of COVID-19 in patients in high risk groups, such as the elderly, experiencing mild symptoms. The recommendation was based on new data from six clinical trials, involving nearly 5,000 patients.

The pill is taken as soon as possible after COVID-19 symptoms develop, and then for the following five days.

WHO experts recommended in the British Medical Journal, that people with weak immune systems, or chronic disease, should take the pill if they had non-severe COVID-19. The recommendation as based off six clinical trials, which involved 4,796 patients, the “largest dataset on this drug so far”. The trials suggested that molnupiravir reduced the risk of going to hospital, with 43 fewer admissions per 1,000 high-risk patients, as well as speeding up the pace at which symptoms left to an average of 3.4 days.

The panel also revealed it was preparing recommendations for Pfizer’s rival COVID-19 antiviral pill, Paxlovid, which was shown to be nearly 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths, compared with 30% for molnupiravir.

In the recommendation for molnupiravir, the panel shared that “young and healthy patients, including children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women should not be given the drug due to potential harms,” and acknowledged that “cost and availability issues associated with molnupiravir may make access to low- and middle-income countries challenging and exacerbate health inequity”.

Other potential concerns have been raised regarding the pill, which the US FDA has not authorised for under-18s, due to possible affects on bone and cartilage growth.

The panel also updated its guidance for the use of he COVID-19 antibody cocktail by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, now only recommending the drug for people who are not infected with Omicron. This is due to preclinical data showing that the cocktail is not effective against this variant.

Ana Ovey

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