Merck’s COVID-19 antiviral does not reduce hospitalization or death in high-risk vaccinated people: study

The COVID-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir helps speed recovery from the virus but does not reduce hospitalization or mortality in adults who have received high-risk vaccines.

Mornupiravir from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck & Co. is used to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 and can be taken at home twice daily for 5 days within 5 days of symptom onset.

It works by stopping the virus from replicating, keeping levels low in the body and reducing severity.

This research lancet December 22nd, peer-reviewed.

Between 8 December 2021 and 27 April 2022, aged 50 years or older, or aged 18 years or older with relevant comorbidities, who had confirmed COVID-19 within 5 days and were unwell More than 25,700 eligible participants of the study were conducted when the Omicron variant predominated.

Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive 800 mg molnupiravir twice daily for 5 days, and the other half were assigned to receive routine hospital care only.

Participants had an average age of 56.6 years and 94% had received at least three doses of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

United Kingdom PPE MHS
A nurse changes PPE in Ward 5, the COVID Red ward, of the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, Scotland, 27 January 2021. (Jane Barlow/PA)

No hospitalization or death

The researchers followed up participants by online diary or by phone within 28 days. We found 98 hospitalizations or deaths (1%) recorded in 12,525 participants who received usual care, compared with 12,525 participants who received usual care.

However, in this study, participants who received molnupiravir recovered faster than those who received usual care, with higher rates of early sustained recovery, reduced viral load, and reduced GP visits. A small difference was found. Twenty percent of patients on molnupiravir sought a GP visit, compared to 24% of patients who received usual care, a small difference.

The study found that participants who received mornupiravir reported a median recovery time of 15 days, compared with 9 days for participants who received only usual care. Further analysis suggested that molnupiravir accelerated recovery by an average of 4.2 days, according to the researchers.

“In this analysis of the largest randomized trial of people who have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 infection, are at high risk of adverse community outcomes, and are unwell with COVID-19, showed that adding early to the care of patients did not reduce hospitalization or death (which was low in both treatment groups),” said the study authors.

“However, mornupiravir and usual-care group participants recovered faster, had higher rates of early sustained recovery, and had fewer general practitioner visits than participants in the usual-care group.

Mornupiravir, an experimental COVID-19 treatment, is shown in a handout photo released by Merck & Co. Inc. on May 17, 2021. (Distribution by Merck & Co. Inc./Reuters)

NICE says molnupiravir is not cost-effective

November 2021, Merck said Results of the Molnupiravir MOVe-OUT study showed that oral antivirals were 30% effective in reducing hospitalizations. However, that study was conducted in unvaccinated adults.

Shortly thereafter, the UK became the first country to approve molnupiravir for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in people with other risk factors such as obesity, diabetes or people over the age of 60.

The National Institute for Health and Medicine (NICE), which provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care in the UK, Recommended People stopped using five COVID-19 treatments, including Merck’s antiviral drugs, to treat the virus and said, “Although there is some clinical evidence that they are effective in treating COVID-19, they are cost-effective. I didn’t think it was high,” he said.

Chris Butler, professor of primary care and co-principal investigator in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford, said: Said at the Science Media Center Mornupiravir could help ease the strain on the UK’s health service under pressure, helping key workers to return to work sooner as it helps speed recovery from COVID. I explained in a post-publication briefing of the study that the results showed it could be helpful. -19.

But Richard Hobbs, a Nuffield professor of primary care at Oxford and a co-researcher, noted the high prices associated with antiviral drugs, estimated to cost hundreds of pounds for a five-day course.

“Mornupiravir is an expensive antiviral drug. Its rollout will depend on how much an average four-day improvement in symptoms benefits the country,” Hobbes said at the briefing.

Mornupiravir generated approximately $5 billion in sales for Merck in the first three quarters of 2022.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Katavera Roberts

Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on US, world and business news.