Headline RoundupOctober 1st, 2021

Merck Says It Has First Effective Antiviral Pill To Treat COVID-19

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American drugmaker Merck announced Friday that it will seek emergency authorization of an experimental antiviral pill known as molnupiravir after it significantly reduced the worst effects of COVID-19 in clinical trials. The company said that in the trials, the treatment cut the risk of hospitalization or death in half when given to high-risk patients within the first five days of COVID-19 symptoms. By inserting errors into the virus' genetic code, the drug can reportedly minimize the duration of illness, mitigate serious symptoms and "limit transmission to people in your household if you are sick." Some experts are "optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic" if authorized, alleviating pressure on hospitals and curbing infections in poorer areas across the globe. Merck said it expects to complete the third phase of trials by early November. Two other antiviral pills are being developed: one by Pfizer, and the other by Atea Pharmaceuticals and Roche. Both are expected to release their trial results in the coming months.

Coverage was prominent across the spectrum, with most outlets highlighting hopeful barometers that molnupiravir could play a key role in ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Some outlets also emphasized how White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients said the antiviral pill could be an “additional tool in our toolbox” but that vaccinations remain the strongest tool. 

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