UK Study: Antiviral Molnupiravir Hastens COVID Recovery

A new UK study that tested 25k vaccinated COVID patients revealed that the antiviral drug molnupiravir, produced by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), reduced the recovery time from the disease.

UK Study: Antiviral Molnupiravir Hastens COVID Recovery
Image credit: The Independent 

Facts

  • A new UK study that tested 25k vaccinated COVID patients revealed that the antiviral drug molnupiravir, produced by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), reduced the recovery time from the disease.
  • Molnupiravir is the first antiviral medication for COVID that can be taken in pill form and was approved by UK medicines regulators in November, with the nation purchasing 480k courses.
  • Unlike previous studies, which were largely on unvaccinated patients, the latest analysis — conducted by University of Oxford researchers — involved vaccinated patients who were either healthy and over 50 or 18-50 with underlying conditions.
  • The peer-reviewed study, called the PANORAMIC, showed that molnupiravir effectively reduced viral load and hastened recovery by roughly four days. However, the drug wasn't shown to reduce hospitalizations or deaths — in contrast to prior tests that saw it reduce hospitalization by 30% in unvaccinated patients.
  • Prof. Richard Hobbs, Head of Oxford Primary Care and co-trial lead, stressed that, although the trial did show success, the drug only provides symptomatic relief and that the COVID vaccine still plays a vital role in reducing death and hospitalization.
  • PANORAMIC’s results were published in the Lancet journal. The authors — echoing Hobbs — highlighted the value of the study but maintained that the drug's benefits must be weighed against its cost, which is estimated to be several hundred pounds for a five-day treatment.

Sources: BBC News, Yahoo News, Oxford News, and News Medical.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Trial Site. The PANORAMIC study definitively shows that molnupiravir and similar antiviral drugs are essentially useless and shouldn't be approved by health regulators. While it undeniably has some benefits, they're overwhelmingly outweighed by the drug's cost. During a pandemic that has taken millions of lives across the globe, governments can't afford to waste money and resources on drugs that don’t fully work.
  • Narrative B, as provided by NEJM. While the PANORAMIC study didn't reveal molnupiravir to be a magic cure to end the pandemic, its findings show that the drug has many benefits. COVID hospitalizations are already very low (0.8%), so the detractors are objecting over a very small subset of patients. On the positive side, speeding up COVID recovery is a massive success for the vast majority of patients, and we should be happy that molnupiravir does just that.