COVID-19 antiviral treatment shown to speed up recovery in trial
Molnupiravir, made by Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD), has been found to reduce the recovery time of COVID-19 patients, however it did not decrease mortality rates or hospital admissions.
The trial was conducted to see whether it followed previous studies of molnupiravir, which had looked at its effectiveness at reducing hospital admissions among patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. However, the biggest difference was that these trials were performed on unvaccinated patients before the Omicron variant.
The drug was given to more than 25,000 high-risk patients – those at risk due to age or underlying health conditions – twice a day for five days while they had the Omicron variant. Their recovery time was measured against those who also had the infection but were just receiving standard care.
Results showed that the treatment reduced recovery time by around four days, while also reducing the viral load.
Chris Butler, who is a professor of primary care in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said, “Finding effective, safe and scalable early treatments for COVID-19 in the community is the next major frontier in our research response to the ongoing worldwide pandemic. It is in the community where treatments could have a massive reach and impact. But decisions about who to treat should always be based on evidence from rigorous clinical trials that involve people who would most likely be prescribed the drugs.”
Former deputy chief medical officer for England, Prof Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, who is pro-vice-chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham and study coauthor, furthered: “While molnupiravir was originally found to work well to reduce hospitalisation in patients with COVID-19, these were unvaccinated patients. This latest research has repeated the exercise in the highly vaccinated population, demonstrating that the vaccine protection is so strong that there is no obvious benefit from the drug in terms of further reducing hospitalisation and deaths. However, symptom duration and virus shedding are both markedly reduced, and we have to wait much longer to know if there will be any discernible effects on long COVID.”