As well as vaccines, we need medications to fight COVID-19. Vaccines take time to distribute and become effective in the body. Some people do not trust them or want to take them. Some people cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. And, of course, they take time to manufacture. We need treatments to help people who are already sick while finding ways to prevent illness beyond masking, social distancing and handwashing.
For the last year, healthcare workers have been incredible. They have done their utmost to help patients. Throughout the pandemic, there have been trials of new treatments to try and help people. While therapies like hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma didn’t work out, others have been helpful. Each find has been useful — both positive and negative — to know how to aid ill people.
When a virus is an emerging problem, you see advances very quickly. While Merck has yet to produce an effective vaccine, they are seeing good results with an antiviral drug. They are currently in the second phase of their trial of molnupiravir and are pleased with their results.
People in the trial had tested positive and had symptoms but were not ill enough to be hospitalized. People who received molnupiravir twice a day had no signs of infection after five days. Twenty-four percent of people who received a placebo still had symptoms. People who received larger doses did better after three days. Quite a few antiviral drugs are being tested against COVID-19, but molnupiravir is the furthest along.
Researchers have pointed out that it’s imperative to have these drugs that can treat COVID-19 as the virus is continually mutating. Experts say that if not enough people get vaccinated quickly, the virus may mutate to the point where the vaccine becomes useless. And the drug could also be used to fight future viruses.
“This is a great tool to have to be able to know for future viruses maybe if we get a mutant that actually circumvents the vaccines, this drug will still work,” said molecular epidemiologist Dr. Jill Roberts.
The drug stops the virus from replicating inside the body. That prevents the virus from making the person ill, and then the virus can’t be passed to others. The drug is also a pill, not an IV or injection, and can be taken at home without a medical professional’s help. It’s the same sort of thing as Tamiflu, which anyone who has had the flu might have taken in the past. You take it early, and you are less sick for a shorter time.
Merck says they can treat as many as 10 million people by the end of the year with their drug should all their testing prove successful. Even if the vaccine blankets North America and we’re all protected, this could be a massive win for other countries that are still waiting on the vaccine. And, if another coronavirus becomes a significant threat in the future, this will be an incredible tool at our disposal.