COVID-19 News and Updates: March 2021 – #1

Early studies show new COVID-19 pill could be ‘game-changer’

Catherine Ross

March 11, 2021 (WCMH) – Some doctors are calling an experimental drug a “game-changer” in the fight against COVID-19. Pharmaceutical company Merck recently released, along with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, early trial results for Molnupiravir.

The antiviral therapy would be a first of its kind capsule, taken twice a day for 5 days, to limit the effects of COVID-19.

Central Ohio family physician Dr. Anup Kanodia explained Molnupiravir works for COVID-19 the way Tamiflu works for the flu. Both drugs stop a virus from reproducing.

“If you catch it early on, it’s easier to fight off. Same thing with this,” he said. “So if you stop it replicating, stop it from growing in your body, then you’ll have less severe symptoms, less need to go to the ER, hospital, ICU, et cetera.”

The pill would be the first oral antiviral in a limited arsenal of COVID-19 treatment options. Several other drugs must be administered intravenously in a hospital or clinical setting.

“I can call in a script, go to a pharmacy and take it. It stops it in its tracks,” Dr. Kanodia explained of the capsule.

If approved, the companies expect the treatment could work for everyone from asymptomatic to hospitalized patients. During an infectious disease conference Saturday, Ridgeback explained the drug significantly reduced the virus after five days of treatment in subjects taking part in a mid-stage study. A third trial phase will bring the treatment to a larger sample size before the companies seek approval.

Additionally, the companies said because Molnupiravir is not coded to fight any specific strain of coronavirus, it would be effective against new and emerging variants.

A federal program teamed up Molnupiravir creator Merck with Johnson and Johnson to ramp up production of the latest approved vaccine.

Dr. Kanodia said the extra vaccination efforts, along with the promising new treatment option, could mean the U.S. is turning a corner in the pandemic.

“There’s hope,” he said. “There’s a lot of hope and we all feel it.”

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