The World Health Organization on Wednesday recommended that an anti-Covid-19 pill – Molnupiravir – be taken by patients with mild symptoms but a high risk of hospitalization.
This also applies to the elderly and unvaccinated.
Molnupiravir, anti-Covid-19 pill
Who should (and shouldn’t) take it?
The pill, called Molnupiravir and developed by US pharmaceutical company Merck, is taken as soon as possible after Covid-19 symptoms develop and then for the next five days.
A WHO group of experts said in the British Medical Journal that people with weak immune systems or chronic diseases were also advised to take the pill if they had non-serious Covid.
But “young and healthy patients, including children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women should not be given the drug because of potential harm,” they said.
Reduced risk of hospitalization
The UN agency’s new recommendation was based on the results of six randomized controlled trials involving 4,796 patients, the “largest dataset on this drug to date.”
The studies suggested that Molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization, with 43 fewer admissions per 1,000 high-risk patients, and accelerated the rate at which symptoms resolved by an average of 3.4 days.
There was less evidence that it had an effect on mortality, with only six fewer deaths per 1,000 patients.
The WHO acknowledged that “cost and availability issues associated with” Molnupiravir access to low- and middle-income countries can pose challenges and increase health inequalities”.
While vaccines remain key tools in the fight against the pandemic, experts have welcomed the addition of new oral treatments, which inhibit the virus’ ability to replicate and resist variants.
The only other major anti-Covid pill available is Pfizer’s Paxlovid.
However, more potential concerns have been raised about Merck’s Pill, which the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved for children under 18 because it could affect bone and cartilage growth.
© Agence France Presse