What You Need To Know About A New, Promising COVID Antiviral Drug

Historically, the two ways to combat the spread and mortality of infectious diseases has been through treatment and vaccination efforts. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three vaccines for emergency use authorization, with a few more potential options on the way. So far in the U.S., over 116 million COVID vaccines have been administered and states across the nation are expanding their eligibility regularly. This is encouraging as the U.S. alone has lost over 535,000 people to this devastating pandemic.

As with any novel virus, there are a lot of unknowns initially; how does it spread? Who is more likely to get it? How can we stop the spread? How can we treat it? In time, all of these questions find their answers. Currently, pharmaceutical companies around the world are working on ways to increase survival rates in patients sickened and hospitalized with COVID-19. Vaccinations are being distributed to help slow the spread and decrease hospitalizations, but more treatment options are necessary as well.

Currently, the FDA has only approved one drug to treat COVID-19, remdesivir or VEKLURY. Other options such as steroids and monoclonal antibody treatments have, at times, been found beneficial, but more options are necessary. Last week, pharmaceutical giants Merck and Ridgeback BioTherapeutics announced promising preliminary results from a Phase 2a controlled trial of the oral antiviral medication Molnupiravir.

More research is needed but early data is promising

The promising early results found that of 182 participants, at baseline, 42 percent of them had detectable levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus through nasopharyngeal swabs. After taking the oral pill twice a day for five days, none of those participants tested positive, compared to 24 percent of participants who tested positive in the placebo group.

They also found the drug to be safe. In total, there were 202 participants and no adverse reactions related to the drug itself. Only four individuals had adverse reactions but they were found to be unrelated to the drug.

These findings are incredibly promising when it comes to fighting COVID-19 and similar viruses. Molnupiravir has been found to potentially impact "prophylaxis, treatment, and prevention of transmission" of SARS-CoV-1, and MERS, in addition to SARS- CoV-2, according to Merck. The drug still has a ways to go before it can potentially be made available on the market, though. Wendy Painter, M.D., of Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, stated that while these early findings are impressive, "We will need to see if people get better from actual illness" to see if it will be beneficial to those severe cases (via Medscape).

While more studies need to be done, it is certainly a step in the right direction.