The scientific method of developing a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, collecting the data and presenting the data to other scientists has led the world to many of its greatest scientific accomplishments. As we face greater and greater scientific problems each year, it is necessary to continue this method to find the best treatments for the world’s diseases. Covid-19 and its variants will continue to be at the top of the world’s problems since we see that vaccines don’t stop the spread of the disease and we just don’t know what new variants will do. To solve this, scientists are working hard to create new drug solutions to treat this deadly virus once a patient has been infected. The most recent being the Merck and Pfizer’s pills: Molnupiravir and Paxlovid. Both of these drugs are to be ingested soon after noticing symptoms. Both have shown promising results, but if we want this pandemic to be over with so we can get back to normal, we need assurances that these pills work now and for the coming variants.
Pfizer tested their antiviral combination Paxlovid pill and found that their pill works with an astonishing 89% decrease in hospitalization given in a 3 day symptom onset. When given within 5 days it was slightly less, yet still an improvement from our current numbers. Their research found three of the 389 people with Covid-19 (.08%) were hospitalized, compared to a 27 out of 385 (7%) in the placebo group. The pill is a protease inhibitor, just like the ones used to help stop the spread of HIV. It stops the action of protease, which halts the ability of the virus to replicate. Paxlovid uses a decades-old HIV drug, called ritonavir, that accelerates the protease inhibitor. With this data, the FDA approved Paxlovid just before Christmas.
Merck partnered with Ridgeback Therapeutics to produce their molnupiravir pill. It is a nucleoside analog, meaning it is an artificial building block of RNA, this introduces errors into the DNA of the Covid virus so it can’t replicate. The early trial stages gave a 48% reduction of the chances of hospitalization or death. The trial stopped once these results were revealed in hopes that it would be distributed to the public early. It was approved by the FDA one day after the Pfizer drug, but can’t be used in kids because of side effects. The effective success rate of the drug later dropped to 30%, so much lower than the Pfizer drug. After staying at a 30% success rate, there were more problems that arose. Due to it being a nucleoside analog, it was shown to be able to potentially harm human RNA in pregnant women. There were animal tests completed that showed both growth problems which would make it impossible to give the pill to pregnant women, children, or adolescents. Lindsay Baden, an infectious disease doctor who was apart of the FDA’s advisory committee said the drug might be helpful for “the right patient population, the right virus at the right time.” Ridgeback and Merck recently decided to let developing, poor countries make molnupiravir so that the drug can help countries that can’t usually afford expensive medicine we buy in the USA.
Although a lot of the world is desperate for a swift end to the virus that has changed our lives over the past 2 years, these studies have shown how difficult this virus is to prevent and treat. Paxlovid looks like the most usable and safe drug to take when it is compared to molnupiravir.