Today Merck announced development of a drug that appears to treat covid successfully. This account is from the London Times:
An antiviral pill cuts the risk of needing hospital treatment from Covid-19 in half and slashes the chance of dying, according to landmark findings that promise to bring the world closer to normality.
The potentially game-changing results offer the promise of a completely new way of treating the disease, and represent what scientists hope will be the first of many successful antivirals.
The new treatment, molnupiravir, created by the pharmaceutical companies Merck (MSD outside of the US) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, targets the virus’s life cycle, interfering with its replication by introducing errors in its genome. In this way, it soon stops being able to reproduce.
The study involved almost 800 people who were given a course of treatment when they got sick. Among the half on molnupiravir, 7 per cent ended up in hospital. In the half given a placebo, 14 per cent did.
Eight of those who received the placebo were dead after a month. None of those on molnupiravir were.
On seeing the results the US Food and Drug Administration recommended stopping the trial and applying for an emergency use authorisation for the drug immediately.
If I understand the concept involved, it ought to work against other viruses, many of which are far more serious than covid. If that is correct, this could be a truly significant breakthrough. The other important point, of course, is that molnupiravir is taken as a pill. It can be prescribed and the treatment administered without any need for treatment in a medical facility.