The two drugs are given to Covid-19 patients in the first days of infection and are in the form of tablets to be taken orally, while experts talk about “very encouraging results.”
This development heralds the entry of a new, more effective phase in the fight against the epidemic, because they are medicines that focus on the therapeutic aspect, while vaccines cover the preventive aspect, and therefore the first is a complement to the vaccines and does not represent them, and its goal is to avoid a dangerous development of the disease that may end with the admission of the injured to the hospital or even to the intensive care.
In this context, British virologist Stephen Griffin said in a statement to the Science Media Center that “the success of these antiviral drugs may open a new era in our ability to prevent the severe consequences of infection with the SARS-Cove 2 virus.”
How it works?
These drugs are antivirals that reduce the ability of the virus to multiply and thus slow the disease.
According to both Merck and Pfizer, the rate of hospitalizations among patients who took “molnopiravir” (Merck) was 50 percent, and about 90 percent among those who took “paxlovid” (Pfizer).
Experts caution against comparing efficacy rates between the two drugs directly, given the different protocols for the two studies. What has become clear is that each drug works differently.
– Pfizer: “Baclovid” carries the number PF-07321332, its role is to stop the action of the 3CL enzyme responsible for the reproduction of the virus. In very serious cases of Covid 19, it is recommended to take it along with a very small amount of the drug “ritonavir” that treats HIV. The data provided by Pfizer are based on the results of phase II and III clinical trials of the drug, in which adults in the at-risk group participated.
Pfizer has applied for a license from the US Food and Drug Agency. On the price level, Pfizer has not yet clarified the price of “Baclovid”, but promised that it will be “affordable” and will vary according to countries and their level of income.
Merck’s medicine: Molnopiravir has already been approved for use by UK health authorities on patients with at least one risk factor, including advanced age, obesity and diabetes.
At the same time, the health authorities in the United States and the European Union are urgently reviewing the drug. While the European Medicines Authority promised to issue its opinion quickly, without specifying a date for that. The drug’s marketing name is molnupiravir. And experiments have shown that when this drug is taken in the first days of infection, the risk of deterioration of the condition is significantly reduced. It is recommended to take it immediately after the first positive test for infection, and at the latest five days after the appearance of the first symptoms.
As for its price, it is high and about 700 dollars per treatment, according to the American demand for the drug.
It is still difficult to assess the exact effect of Merck and Pfizer’s treatments because the two groups have so far only published press releases without providing details of their clinical trials. Hence, we must “tread carefully” with this type of advertising pending the details of the studies, as French infectious disease specialist Karen Lacombe pointed out in September, stressing that such treatments could represent a “huge” market for manufacturers.
However, some elements clearly indicate that Merck and Pfizer are not making empty promises because, with the approval of independent monitoring committees, they discontinued their trials earlier than expected in the face of crucial results.
A third drug, fluvoxamine, an antidepressant, is available in the public domain. It, in turn, has shown encouraging results in preventing severe forms of COVID-19, according to a study published in October by Brazilian researchers in The Lancet Global Health.
This treatment is mainly available as a combination antibody. But these drugs, aimed at patients with severe forms, are currently injected intravenously and under medical supervision. This is in favor of Merck and Pfizer, as they are easy-to-use tablets that can be prescribed to the patient who takes them, and he can take them at home without the need for direct medical supervision during the intake process.
Also, this drug was not without criticism from experts. Although the study is public, several researchers have criticized the authors’ assessment of the frequency of hospitalizations combined with long stays in the emergency room, which made interpretation of the data a complex matter.
WB/ (AFP, DW)