Merck says new COVID-19 pill cuts risk of hospitalization, death by half

Interview with Dr. Stephanie Silvera on Merck's new treatment

There’s potentially a new powerful tool for fighting the coronavirus — an experimental pill by drugmaker Merck that treats COVID-19. The pharmaceutical company reports the medication, molnupiravir, cut the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly half in a clinical trial when given to high-risk patients early in their infections.

The results are so positive that an independent board of experts recommended the trial be stopped early to allow Merck to apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in what could be the first antiviral pill for COVID-19.

Montclair State University epidemiologist Dr. Stephanie Silvera discusses the development. “They were hoping to enroll over 1,000 people, but after seeing the results from about 775, they were so positive in terms of the outcome that they were seeing, that they actually stopped the trial because at that point, it would no longer be ethical to not give the drug to people who were in the placebo arm,” said Silvera.

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