Since the beginning of the pandemic, research of antiviral medicines and drugs have only become more specific with combating the Coronavirus. Merck’s new drug, Molnupiravir, was a result of pharmaceuticals amplifying research on Covid. The foreshadowing of this drug shows a bright future and an end to Covid-19 once and for all.
Merck applied for authorization first in October and many praised the new drug as a potential game-changer. Pfizer submitted their version of medication called Paxlovid in November. The Food and Drug Administration has provided emergency use authorizations for pills from both Merck and Pfizer while scientists continue to study the real-world effectiveness of both. Molnupiravir is administered as four 200 milligram capsules taken orally every 12 hours for five days, for a total of 40 capsules. It is not authorized for use for longer than five consecutive days where its use seems to be feasible to all users.
Molnupiravir works by introducing errors into the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ genetic code where it prevents the virus from further replicating. Dr. Shaw, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist, explains when the drug enters your bloodstream, it blocks the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to replicate, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Shaw explains. The coronavirus uses RNA as its genetic material. The structure of Molnupiravir resembles the nucleosides (or chemical building blocks) used to make the virus’s RNA. The drug works by incorporating itself into the RNA as it’s being synthesized where it “results in many mutations, or changes in the RNA genetic code, introduced into the viral RNA,” says Dr. Shaw. “And when this RNA is translated into viral proteins, these proteins contain too many mutations for the virus to function.” If this disables replication and RNA’s ability to infect our cells, we will not be as sick from Covid no longer.
An early report showed the Merck drug cut the risk of hospitalization and death to 50% in patients who had mild-to-moderate cases. Results from the Molnupiravir clinical trial, conducted in the U.S. and other countries, suggested the drug would be effective against CDC “variants of concern,” including the Delta, Gamma, and Mu mutations. Scientists are still studying how well the drug works to treat Omicron and are optimistic since its application is the same with Omicron’s RNA.
While this is exciting news, the vaccine many researchers, scientist, and doctors say is still our first line of defense. Some are even concerned that the attention on Molnupiravir will “draw attention away from vaccination,” says Dr. Meyer. “Some people might say, ‘I’m not getting vaccinated because I’ll have access to these medications’—to this pill or to remdesivir or other treatments. But you can’t trade one for the other. If you haven’t done so already, the most important thing is still to get the vaccine.”