The United Kingdom's medicine regulators have approved the first pill developed to treat patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19.
Originally intended to fight the flu, Molnupiravir has now been approved in the United Kingdom to treat COVID patients. The pill, developed by US drug companies Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD) alongside Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, has gone through clinical trials, but as the BBC reports, the results have not been peer-reviewed.
In the trials, of the 775 patients who had recently caught COVID, 7.3% of those given the drug were hospitalized, which was half the number of those given a placebo. Not one person given Molnupiravir died of COVID.
The pill works by targeting enzymes that the COVID virus uses to make copies of itself, and inserting errors into its genetic code, thereby preventing it from multiplying. As the BBC reports, data suggests that in order to be effective, the drug must be taken as soon as possible after symptoms of COVID appear. There does not seem to be any meaningful benefits for patients who are already in the hospital fighting the disease.
Molnupiravir is the first COVID antiviral that can be administered orally, and at home. While the US companies were the first to develop such a pill, other manufacturers are working hard to develop similar products.