The results were from Ridgeback’s trial to evaluate the treatment’s safety, tolerability, and efficacy to eliminate SARS-CoV-2, the companies said in a joint statement
US drugmaker Merck & Co Inc has said that the experimental Covid-19 oral antiviral drug treatment molnupiravir, which it is developing with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, showed a quicker reduction in the infectious virus in its phase 2a study among participants with early Covid-19.
The results were from Ridgeback’s trial to evaluate the treatment’s safety, tolerability, and efficacy to eliminate SARS-CoV-2, the companies said in a joint statement.
"The secondary objective findings in this study, of a quicker decrease in infectious virus among individuals with early COVID-19 treated with molnupiravir, are promising," said William Fischer, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, in a statement from the companies.
The antiviral is being currently tested in a Phase 2/3 trial that is set to be completed in May.
“At a time where there is unmet need for antiviral treatments against SARS-CoV-2, we are encouraged by these preliminary data," Wendy Painter, Chief Medical Officer of Ridgeback, said in the statement.
“The secondary objective findings in this study, of a quicker decrease in infectious virus among individuals with early Covid-19 treated with molnupiravir, are promising and if supported by additional studies, could have important public health implications," William Fischer, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said in the statement.
Further study of the experimental antiviral is under way. If it proves capable of treating people with Covid-19 who show symptoms, the drug would bolster a limited arsenal of treatments and be the first oral antiviral against the disease.
Merck decided to focus on therapeutics after its two COVID-19 vaccines failed to generate desired immune responses, prompting it to abandon the program in January.
More than a year into the pandemic, doctors and Covid-19 patients have few options. Only one antiviral has been authorized for use: remdesivir from Gilead Sciences Inc., and it has shown to provide only a modest benefit in hospitalized patients, reducing their stays by several days.
The experimental drug - molnupiravir - could fill an important role by also helping people who are sick but still at home, serving the same kind of role performed by Tamiflu for the flu, some infectious-disease experts say.