Merck says its COVID-19 pill drastically reduced deaths during trial

Pharmaceutical company Merck has announced that its molnupiravir pill-based COVID-19 treatment "significantly" reduced the rates of hospitalization and death among patients during its Phase 3 MOVe-OUT trial. The benefits were observed among participants who had mild to moderate COVID-19, but who weren't hospitalized at the time they started taking the oral treatment.

Molnupiravir is a pill that patients who have mild or moderate COVID-19 can take two times a day for five days. The treatment is intended to start at the onset of symptoms with the goal of reducing the patient's likelihood of ending up hospitalized or dying from the respiratory disease.

In its latest update on the drug, Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics revealed that molnupiravir cut the hospitalization and death risk by around 50-percent as of the interim analysis part of the phase 3 trial. Of participants in the trial, some were given the investigational treatment while others were given a placebo.

Of those patients, 14.1-percent were either hospitalized or died from COVID-19 compared to 7.3-percent of the participants who received the drug. Those were the results for the first 29 days of the trials, with the company noting that none of the patients who received molnupiravir died.

The findings were excellent enough to bring recruitment for the trial to an end, Merck revealed. The company says it plans to submit an EUA application with the FDA as soon as possible, potentially bringing the oral COVID-19 treatment to patients in need in the relatively near future.