Merck says Covid antibody treatment less effective than first thought

The pharmaceutical group said on Friday that, after a full analysis of the trial results, Merck’s Covid-19 oral antiviral treatment was not as effective as initially thought, after a full analysis. Sufficient trial results have provided new data on the potential to reduce hospitalizations and deaths.

The company said its oral drug, molnupiravir, showed a 30% relative risk reduction when compared with placebo in all 1,400 patients enrolled in the trial. Last month, it said the reduction was “about” 50% when it released preliminary data on a smaller sample of patients.

In the full analysis, one death was reported in the molnupiravir group and nine in the placebo group.

New York-listed shares of Merck lost 2.6% in pre-market trading on Friday, amid a sharper market decline.

The company said the new data continue to support the “favorable overall efficacy and benefit-risk assessment of molnupiravir for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 in adults at high risk of disease progression”. It said it shared additional data with the US Food and Drug Administration, which is reviewing the drug.

It noted that the statistical criteria for success had been met and that an external panel advised stopping enrollment in the study.

Molnupiravir, co-developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and also known as Lagevrio, has been approved for use in the UK. European regulators are also looking into it. Merck signed an agreement with the Drug Patent Foundation to make the drug available to poorer countries.

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