Molnupiravir Pill: Alternative to COVID-19 Vaccine?

Merck has been developing an antiviral drug that promises to be an alternative to COVID-19 vaccine and a solution to the pandemic. Here we tell you all about this pill.

Woman holding some pills

This pill, it is presumed that it could be the beginning of the transformation in the treatments during the pandemic against the vaccines that have already been used throughout the year. Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar

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Leer en español: Pastilla Molnupiravir: ¿Alternativa a la vacuna contra la COVID-19?

On November 4, the United Kingdom, through the Medicines Regulatory Agency, decided to approve what could be a powerful pill that has been designed for the first time to treat coronavirus infection and that, in turn, promises to be a immediate solution to the fourth wave of the pandemic that is already beginning to feel strongly in Europe and the United States.

This pill, which has been called Molnupiravir (in honor of Mjölnir, Thor's hammer) by researchers at Emory University in 2020, is presumed to be the beginning of the transformation in treatments during the pandemic against to vaccines that have already been used throughout the year.

It is currently waiting for the US FDA to authorize its emergency use and thus begin to reduce deaths in people with serious hospitalization.

How does Molnupiravir work?

Unlike current vaccines that target the spike protein of the virus, the pill acts directly on the basic machinery of coronavirus replication in the human body, leaving it without resistance and introducing errors in its genetic code to reduce its viral load and avoiding the severity of the disease.

Also read: Infographic: Which Countries Are Applying The Third Dose Of the COVID Vaccine?

This drug works against essentially any number of RNA viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, Ebola, Hepatitis C, RSV, and Norovirus. However, an important question enters this event: if the molecules of this pill are capable of entering RNA, can they also enter human DNA and create modifications?

In answer to that question, genomic errors will most likely occur if it is given in high doses and for long-term durations, but according to the tests carried out by the pharmaceutical company Merck there is no evidence that the use of the pill causes complex effects on humans. However, this new drug development adds to the armor against covid-19.

What results were obtained from the clinical trials?

To collect data from clinical trials and determine whether it is an effective drug for the disease, Molnupiravir was administered to 775 patients who had tested positive for coronavirus. Of that total number of participants, 7.3% who took the pill were hospitalized compared to 14.1% who received a placebo. While there were no deaths in any of those who received the medication, while in the control group eight people did die.

How does the pandemic change this type of pills in the future?

If Molnupiravir turns out to be as good as clinical trial results show, this could totally transform the treatments used to deal with the pandemic.

At a time when developed countries are beginning to see the precariousness of the fourth wave, these antivirals are a great alternative that would help reduce the collapse in medical centers. In that sense, anyone who begins to present symptoms would simply have to take a rapid covid-19 test, go to a pharmacy to buy the orange pill and comply with the prescription and dose. In this way, the coronavirus will be a mild disease that will not require hospitalization or risk of death.

On the other hand, Pfizer has also started to develop a new antiviral drug called Paxlovid and the Swiss Roche is betting on a similar one. It should be noted that competition within the scientific community was very important for the approval of vaccines that already exist in all countries of the world. So, the foray of other pharmaceutical companies to create drugs of this type is essential to effectively combat the problems that lie ahead.