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Three pharma cos in race to find COVID-19 treatment pill; results likely by 2021-end

Three pharma cos in race to find COVID-19 treatment pill; results likely by 2021-end

The medication being produced by Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics is called molnupiravir, while two other candidates in the works are PF-07321332, and AT-527 by Pfizer and Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticlas

The three contenders in the race are Pfizer and its rivals, Merck & Co Inc and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG The three contenders in the race are Pfizer and its rivals, Merck & Co Inc and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG

In a bid to thwart the first signs of COVID and prevent symptoms from developing post exposure, three pharma companies are racing to produce the first oral antiviral pill.

Currently, in clinical trials, the results are expected by this year-end. The three contenders in the race are Pfizer and its rivals, Merck & Co Inc and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG.

The medication being produced by Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics is called molnupiravir, while two other candidates in the works are PF-07321332, and AT-527 by Pfizer and Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticals.

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Thus far, only one antiviral drug, remdesivir, has been granted approval to treat COVID. However, it is administered intravenously to patients ill enough to be hospitalised, and is also not intended for early and broad use.

On September 1, Pfizer Inc and Merck & Co Inc announced new trials of their experimental oral antiviral drugs for Covid-19 as the race to develop an easy-to-administer treatment for the potentially fatal illness heats up.

Pfizer said its latest mid-to-late-stage trial will enroll 1,140 non-hospitalised adults diagnosed with coronavirus infection who are not at risk of severe illness. Patients in the trial will be given Pfizer's pill, known as PF-07321332, and a low dose of ritonavir, an older medication widely used in combination treatments for HIV infection.

Pfizer's drug is designed to block the activity of a key enzyme that is needed for the coronavirus to multiply.

Merck said its new trial will study experimental drug molnupiravir for the prevention of Covid-19 among adults in the same household as someone diagnosed with symptomatic coronavirus infection.

Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are already conducting a late-stage trial of the treatment in non-hospitalised patients to see if it reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death.

Molnupiravir is a type of antiviral designed to introduce errors into the RNA of the virus that eventually prevents it from replicating.

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Pfizer began in July a different trial of PF-07321332 in adults with Covid-19 infection who are at high risk of becoming severely ill due to underlying health conditions such as diabetes.

The company said it expects initial results from that study sometime this fall. Rivals Pfizer and Merck, along with Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG, have made the most progress in developing what would be the first antiviral pill to treat, or possibly prevent, Covid-19.

Roche and partner Atea Pharmaceuticals in June said early data from a trial of their experimental oral antiviral AT-527 showed that it lowered viral load in hospitalised patients.

Merck said in June that the US government agreed to pay about $1.2 billion for 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir, if it is proven to work and authorised by regulators. The company said it expected to file for US emergency use authorisation of molnupiravir in the second half of 2021 at the earliest.

Pfizer said in July if the PF-07321332 trial was successful, it would file for a potential emergency use authorisation in the fourth quarter.