An at-home covid prescription pill from Merck reduced hospitalizations by 50%

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The death toll in the US from covid has surpassed 700,000, which is heartbreaking and hard to fathom. I did the math and that’s .21 percent of the population, so almost a quarter of one percent. The actual numbers are surely higher than that. Florida has been fudging the statistics and there are uncounted deaths from lack of treatment and delayed treatment as unvaccinated patients take up hospital resources. The good news is that there may be an end to the pandemic in sight that does not require people to be mildly inconvenienced by getting a vaccination to prevent a deadly virus. (Of course there are also vulnerable people, children under 12 and the housebound who cannot be vaccinated.) Merck has been testing an oral prescription against coronavirus, given as early as possible. The pill was so effective in clinical trials that the trial was halted to get it to the public as soon as possible. Of course it’s not as effective as the vaccines, but it’s incredibly promising.

Taking a course of a particular antiviral pill over five days, shortly after COVID-19 diagnosis, may slash the risk of being hospitalized or dying of the virus by 50%, according to preliminary results announced by pharmaceutical companies Merck and Ridgeback.

If this pill — called molnupiravir — is ultimately authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first antiviral pill people can take at home to reduce their risk of winding up in the hospital from the coronavirus. The medication would require a prescription and likely be for people with mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19.

“This is the first oral antiviral that will be available to combat COVID-19 and why that’s so important, if you think of it if you’re someone who is unfortunate enough to get the news that you’ve contracted COVID-19, this is the pill, you can take it home and will significantly reduce the risk that you either ultimately are hospitalized or more importantly that you would ever face the unfortunate outcome of death,” Robert M. Davis, the chief executive officer and president of Merck told “Good Morning America” Friday.

“It’s really exciting,” Dr. Carlos Del Rio, the executive associate dean and a global health expert at the Emory School of Medicine, said.

Right now, most COVID-19 patients are sent home and told to monitor their symptoms. Having an effective pill to offer them would “make a difference,” Del Rio added.

Merck Thursday morning announced the results of an ongoing Phase 3 study are so compelling that an independent monitoring board recommended, in consultation with the FDA, ending the trial early so the companies can swiftly seek authorization. The full set of data would become available to the public at that time.

“This is an oral antiviral. So it’s a pill. You take it. It’s a five-day course of therapy and by taking the pill it actually inserts into the RNA of the virus and stops it from working and that really is the magic of how this works and really allows you to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization or death,” Davis said.

[From ABC News]

Again, people should still get vaccinated and this is much less effective. Plus it’s not yet available to the public. I hope this gets emergency use authorization soon! Along with this treatment from Merck there could be other coronavirus prescriptions coming. There are two other oral covid treatments being tested now, one from Roche in conjunction with Atea called AT-527, and another from Pfizer, PF-07321332.* These treatments, if people are willing to take them, will go a long way toward helping save lives. Of course we could avoid so many severe infections and deaths if more antivaxxers and vaccine hesitant people would just get one of the freely available vaccines, but at least there’s a new treatment coming. Whether people will take a prescription or will continue to do things like gargle iodine, inhale hydrogen peroxide or eat horse dewormer paste remains to be seen.

I’ve been worried that family and friends might not be able to get care for non-covid medical emergencies since hospitals are full. I am so happy at the prospect that things could get better here soon. Plus healthcare workers, who have been traumatized and overworked caring for covid patients, might get some relief.

*Thanks to Dr. Stella on TikTok for making me aware of the other coronavirus treatments in the pipeline.

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Photos credit: Laura James and JEShoots on Pexels and Bermix Studio on Unsplash

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17 Responses to “An at-home covid prescription pill from Merck reduced hospitalizations by 50%”

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  1. Mumzy says:

    The price….$700. Cheaper than a hospital stay I guess, but it will be interesting to see if insurers cover this for those who refuse the vaccine.

    • MsIam says:

      I thought I read its $700 per pill? Plus its less effective than the vaccine at reducing hospitalizations. I don’t see how this is a win. But I bet people will jump on this, thinking its safer than the vaccine. Go figure.

      • NCWoman says:

        Right? Somehow they think pills don’t have their own sometimes deadly side effects. But they all do, even aspirin.

      • Hj says:

        This is absolutely a win. Some people cannot be vaccinated for serious medical reasons, so this pill (and others) can offer even a little protection. I have a blood clotting disorder and cannot receive the vaccine and it’s been super scary. I’m very happy they are also developing alternative therapies than the vaccine.

    • Agirlandherdog says:

      Several weeks ago, on the FB page for my town, an anti-vaxxer was arguing that they should just offer the monoclonal therapy for people who get covid. First of all the hypocrisy. He won’t get the vaccine, but he thinks people who choose not to get the vaccine because they don’t “trust” it should be entitled to an experimental treatment? Also, who’s paying for the experimental treatment?? It was an insult to every single person who suffers through a chronic disease every day without treatment because their insurance company won’t pay for it. And to the people who die from treatable diseases because their insurance won’t pay for the treatment. My mom has very good insurance, yet when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, the treatment was going to cost $12,000/month! And yet these anti-vax a$$es think they should get an experimental treatment when they won’t get a free shot developed to prevent the disease! And I’m sure if they get sick, they won’t say no to this new drug. Even though it’s been through less testing than the vaccine.

      • BothSidesNow says:

        @ Agirlandherdog, in addition to your mother suffering this awful diagnosis, what happens if she is in need of desperate care but can’t access an ER due to the selfish, ignorant and empty headed sheeple that have completely sucked up all of the available spaces? What will happen to your mother then?
        The utter selfishness that these idiots commit every day is astonishing and sickening. I honestly don’t think that they should be allowed care, unless it’s outside in their cars with an IV for fluids and an oxygen tank, but there is zero accountability for their awful behaviours. All I hope is that IF they survive, they have a stoke when they get their hospital bill as insurance companies are NO longer turning a blind eye to the extravagant expenses that just ONE day in the ICU costs!!

        It was announced yesterday that in the world of ranking for vaccination stats, the USA ranked #34!!! We are behind some of the smallest countries that have a GDP less than Georgia, but their citizens are NOT selfish and arrogant assholes, like we are.

        They want ALL of their free-dumbs protected, treated as a special class and NOT have to take responsibility.

  2. Smices says:

    The loony tunes are already saying this pill is just Ivermectin repackaged under a new name. I wouldn’t be surprised if the horse dewormer consumption continues for the worst of them.

  3. FancyPants says:

    If it really is a legitimate treatment, the MAGAts won’t take it.

  4. Yikes says:

    PLEASE be careful posting this. While an outside set of medical professionals was observing this study, the data has not yet been peer reviewed and we need to be really careful about celebrating these things without review. As much as we want to mock the ivermectin nonsense, that’s how it started, too. I doubt this is like the ivermectin studies, which were garbage and possibly faked, but as a rule, news agencies need to stop posting this stuff so early and the rest of us should follow suit.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      While I agree that the media sucks when it comes to reporting on pretty much anything to do with medicine, drug research in particular, this isn’t a journal article. this is the outcome of an independent committee reviewing the raw data. As someone with 25 years experience in clinical research/clinical drug development, the fact that the independent data & safety monitoring committee stopped the phase 3 means the data is extremely compelling & that there’s a such huge statistically significant difference of clinically meaningful outcomes between treatment groups that it is not ethical to continue the less effective treatment arm(s).

  5. Sarah says:

    You know what? As a healthcare worker, at this point, I’m happy about anything that might decrease the risk of hospitalizations and/or death. We’ve had surgeries cancelled for the past 5 weeks because all the hospitals are too full of COVID. All those people just waiting with no end of this wave in sight.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      I have been waiting since last December for hip surgery, I am in Texas, the land were Neanderthals are currently servicing the state of Texas in regards to our policies and screwing women and BIPOC citizens for years!! I refuse to enter the hospital for surgery as I will remain for at least 1 or 2 days. I also have put off my mammograms and other needs, like dental. Though, I have resumed my dental needs, carefully. It’s incredulous that people are still walking around here without a F mask!!

  6. Case says:

    It’s outstanding what the scientific community can do when given the funding and resources to tackle a problem. This is still too early on to really comment on, but it sounds impressive from early trial results.

    • lucy2 says:

      It really is, especially when information is shared. So many people have been working tirelessly on the research and development of treatments and vaccines, it’s amazing.

  7. Juju says:

    I think this is outstanding news. It doesn’t take away from the necessity of vaccinations. But it’s certainly is an important step in helping reduce severe illness and death, especially in areas across the world that do not have the healthcare infrastructure to support hospitalizations and treatments that require specialized equipment. A pill that you can take that can reduce your risk of death is going to be easier to ship and supply especially to countries struggling with poverty. This pandemic won’t be under control until it is manageable for most of the global population and this type of treatment will help that become reality.