Molnupiravir, the world’s first anti-Covid pill to treat those who are already suffering with the infection, received approval from UK medical authorities on Thursday.
The oral drug is the first pill developed to fight the virus for which the clinical trial results have already been reported.
Now, medical regulators in Great Britain are the first to green light the drug, which can be administered and transported easily all around the world, making it a game changer in the fight against Covid-19.
The molnupiravir tablets will be taken twice a day by vulnerable patients who have recently been diagnosed with the coronavirus. During its trials, molnupiravir, which was originally developed to treat influenza, halved the risk of hospitalization in patients who took it, as reported by the BBC.
Molnupiravir anti-Covid pill first in world to be authorized
In October in the US, Merck pharmaceuticals, its creator, stopped clinical trials because the medication was so very effective that an advisory panel stated that it needed to be placed before the FDA as soon as possible.
The results of the trials were placed before FDA regulators on October 11; as of now, there has been no decision on the pill from the US drug regulator.
UK Health secretary Sajid Javid stated on Thursday that Molnupiravir was a “gamechanger” for those at greatest risk for severe Covid-19. He said in an announcement “Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for Covid.”
Developed by the American drug companies Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD), in conjunction with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the pill is the very first oral medication to fight ongoing coronavirus infections — making it much more easily given that the current intravenous or injected treatments that are available now, including Regeneron.
Molnupiravir works by altering the genetic codes of enzymes that the virus employs to make copies of itself; in effect, this makes errors occur in it, stopping it from multiplying further.
Its creators say that that process will enable it to be just as effective against any variants that are continually occurring in the coronavirus as it makes its way through populations again and again.
“Game-changer” pill in fight against Covid
The British drug regulatory authority the MHRA stipulates that Molnupiravir may be used in those who are suffering from “mild to moderate” Covid-19 who also have at least one risk factor for contracting the most serious forms of the illness, including obesity, old age, diabetes and/or heart disease.
June Raine, the head of the MHRA, hailed the approval of the oral drug as “another therapeutic to add to our armory against Covid-19,” adding that “It is the world’s first approved antiviral for this disease that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously.
“This is important, because it means it can be administered outside of a hospital setting, before Covid-19 has progressed to a severe stage.”
Expecting its approval by the US FDA and Centers for Disease Control, the US government has already purchased enough of the pill to provide a total of 1.7 million treatments to those suffering from Covid-19, amounting to $1.2 billion, or $700 per treatment.
British health authorities have already ordered 480,000 courses of the pill, which are expected to be delivered by the end of next month; this is the second anti-Covid-19 pill to be ordered by the UK after they already set aside 250,000 courses of another pill developed by the US’ Pfizer Corporation.
Other nations such as Australia, Singapore and South Korea have also purchased the Merck pill in anticipation of its approval.
Clinical trials of the molnupiravir anti-Covid pill studying its effects on 775 patients who were in the initial stages of a coronavirus infection found that only a mere 7.3% of those who took the drug were hospitalized.
This compares with a total of 14.1% of Covid-19 patients who took a placebo pill in the study.
Perhaps most striking of all, there were zero deaths among those who took Molnupiravir; however, eight patients who took a placebo pill in the trial later succumbed to Covid-19.
Stessing that the pill must be taken early on after coronavirus symptoms appear, a study of Molnupiravir in those who were already in the hospital suffering from severe manifestations of the disease was stopped after the medication proved to be ineffective.
The UK’s MHRA states in its recommendation that the drug should be taken “as soon as possible” after the patient shows positive for the virus after a test, within five days after the beginning of any symptoms.
The Pfizer pharmaceuticals giant developed two separate anti-Covid pills this year and are still testing them prior to placing them before the USFDA for approval. Meanwhile, the Swiss form Roche is also developing its own antiviral pill.