Experts said that a drug, in the form of tablets, represents a breakthrough in the treatment of the emerging corona virus, due to its ability to halve the chances of death or the need for hospitalization for people most vulnerable to severe symptoms of Covid-19 disease.
If approved, melnopiravir tablets, which are designed to implant errors in the virus’s genetic code, will be the first oral antiviral drug to treat Covid-19.
The drug developer Merck, the US drug maker, and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics plan to obtain an emergency use authorization in the United States as soon as possible and file applications with drug regulators around the world.
Robert Davis, Merck’s CEO, said this treatment would fundamentally change the ways to control Covid-19.
Among the current treatment options are the antiviral remdesivir and dexamethasone, which is a steroid, but these are not given until the patient has already been admitted to the hospital.
“It’s going to be a game-changer because oral antivirals can affect the risk of hospitalization that much,” said Amesh Adalia, a senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Adalja added that current treatments are “cumbersome and logistically difficult. A simple oral tablet would be the opposite.”
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