FDA Advisors Recommend Merck’s Covid-19 Pill to Reduce Hospitalizations and Deaths

A pill to treat Covid-19 was recommended by FDA experts.

Photo: GEORGE FREY / AFP / Getty Images

WASHINGTON – An advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended this Tuesday the approval for emergency use of the pill against Covid-19 from the American pharmaceutical company Merck, which operates in the rest of the world as MSD.

After almost eight hours of meeting, the members of the FDA’s so-called Vaccine and Biological Products Advisory Committee gave the green light to the recommendation in a tight vote with 13 votes in favor and 10 against.

Specifically, they considered that the medicine in pill form against Covid-19 should be given to adults who are experiencing mild or moderate symptoms of Covid-19 and who are at higher risk of being hospitalized or dying due to your age or previous illnesses, including asthma and obesity.

The pharmaceutical Merck pointed out last week that its pill against Covid-19 reduces the risk of death and hospitalization by 30%, a percentage lower than the 50% initially announced, but FDA experts concluded that the results for now are positive and its emergency use must be authorized.

However, experts warned that the pill could cause fetal defects if taken during pregnancy, so they asked the FDA to take that factor into account.

The committee’s vote is not binding and now it is up to the FDA to evaluate the effectiveness of the pill against Merck’s Covid-19 so that later the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issue what would be the final decision.

If approved, Merck’s pill could become the first drug Americans can take orally at home to treat Covid-19.

That pill known as lagevrio or molnupiravir has already been licensed in the UK.

One of the most anticipated interventions before the committee was that of the vice president of the department of infectious diseases and vaccine research of Merck, Daria hazuda, who stated that the pill should in principle be equally effective against any new variant of the virus.

Specifically, Hazuda spoke to the committee’s experts to explain how exactly that pill works.

With a few slides, Hazuda detailed how the drug targets an enzyme that the covid-19 virus uses to make copies of itself, thus preventing its multiplication and keeping the viral load at low levels in the body, thereby reducing the severity of the disease.

In this context, he explained that the pill would have a “similar activity against any new variant” and, based on the available data, he considered that this drug has a “favorable residence profile”, therefore it would continue to reduce the rates of hospital admissions and deaths.

However, the expert did not expressly mention how effective the pill would be against the new omicron variant, detected for the first time in South Africa.

This new strain of covid-19 is characterized by having a high number of mutations that could lead to greater transmissibility; but, scientists around the world are still investigating what would be the efficacy of the vaccines and treatments available against this new variant.

In addition to the Merck pill, Pfizer announced earlier this month the creation of another pill that reduces the risk of death from Covid-19 by almost 90% for those infected with comorbidities.

Experts agree that obtaining easy-to-administer treatments for those infected by Covid-19 could be a turning point in the pandemic, which in the US alone has killed 777,000 people since March 2020.

It may interest you:

– Pfizer says its Covid-19 pill reduces the risk of hospitalizations and deaths

– The pharmaceutical Merck reduces the effectiveness of its pill against covid-19

– Covid-19: CDC insists that all adults receive booster doses to omicron variant