Merck Says Research Shows Its COVID-19 Pill Works Against Variants, Health News, ET HealthWorld

By Deena Beasley

Laboratory studies show that Merck & Co’s experimental COVID-19 oral antiviral drug, molnupiravir, is likely to be effective against known variants of the coronavirus, including the dominant and highly transmissible Delta, the company said on Wednesday.

Since molnupiravir does not target the virus spike protein – the target of all current COVID-19 vaccines – which defines the differences between the variants, the drug is expected to be equally effective as the virus continues to evolve. , said Jay Grobler, head of infectious diseases. diseases and vaccines at Merck.

Instead, molnupiravir targets the viral polymerase, an enzyme needed by the virus to reproduce. It is designed to work by introducing errors into the genetic code of the virus.

Data shows the drug is most effective when given early in the infection, Merck said.

The US drug maker has tested its antiviral against nasal swab samples taken from participants in the drug’s initial trials. Delta was not widely released at the time of these trials, but molnupiravir has been tested against laboratory samples of the variant that caused the latest increase in hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

Merck is conducting two Phase III trials of the antiviral it is developing with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics – one for the treatment of COVID-19 and another for prevention.

Merck expects the first study to be completed in early November, Grobler said. “The data could arrive sooner or later,” he added.

The research was presented during IDWeek, the annual meeting of infectious disease organizations, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

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