The Merck COVID pill, molnupiravir, cuts risk of death by 50% – now, the UK have secured 480,000 doses for late 2021
The UK announced a contract for 480,000 doses of molnupiravir, which could be used in the country as soon as December, 2021 if approved by health authorities.
What is molnupiravir?
Unlike existing COVID vaccines, it is quite literally a pill that can be taken like a course of antibiotics.
The COVID pill is the first antiviral to make it out of clinical trials with a strong result, although Pfizer are developing one too. The UK has also secured an order for the Pfizer effort.
In late stage clinical trials, molnupiravir protected 50% of study participants against death via COVID. The pill is best used for mild to moderate manifestations of the virus, given in a course of every 12 hours over five days.
According to reporting from The Intercept, the Merck COVID pill will be sold for $712 per five day course – while costing $17.74 to make.
Robert M Davis, chief executive officer and president, Merck, said: “More tools and treatments are urgently needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become a leading cause of death and continues to profoundly affect patients, families, and societies and strain health care systems all around the world.”
Will results hold in real-world use?
However, the findings of the clinical trials are yet to be peer-reviewed and tested externally. Currently, the world is relying on existing data from Merck themselves. Further trials, even in real-world data as the pill is authorised and used, can flesh out how the pill works against current strains of COVID.
Right now, there are several countries without adequate cold supply chains to transport traditional COVID vaccines. Some of those countries also can’t afford to buy any vaccines, or are prevented from making their own. While retail prices for a final product of molnupiravir are currently unknown for the Global South, the pill would be largely more theoretically accessible than an injection.