Those battling the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) will soon have an addition to its arsenal to end the pandemic.
But, like in any battle, one weapon is not enough. What is needed is an accumulation of resources to defeat Covid-19.
The good news Friday, October 1, 2021, was on the readiness for emergency use of a pill that would cut by half the risk of hospitalization or death for those with Covid-19. This does not mean vaccination and safety protocols of wearing masks and physical distancing would no longer apply. They do apply and they will continue to be effective in protecting against the virus.
The Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said it is seeking emergency use authorization from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its molnupiravir pill. If approved, it will be the first oral medicine targeted at the Sars-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19.
The pharmaceutical company said molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50 percent. It added: “7.3 percent of patients who received molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died through Day 29 following randomization (28/385), compared with 14.1 percent of placebo treated patients (53,377). Through Day 29, no deaths were reported in patients who received molnupiravir, as compared to 8 deaths in patients who received placebo.”
The pill is an oral antiviral, not a vaccine. It is effective when taken daily early after diagnosis of infection and it can prevent symptoms from worsening, the company said. Once the pill is approved, Merck said it could produce 10 million tablets by the end of 2021.
Aside from the vaccines, the US FDA has approved the antiviral drug Remdesivir to treat Covid-19 patients. The medicine is given intravenously to those hospitalized. The pill, however, is to be taken early on before the infected person will need hospitalization.
The Merck pill plus the growing number of people getting vaccinated could indeed make Christmas this year merry and meaningful. It would be merry because movement restrictions may be relaxed if the downward trend in the number of new cases continues, and meaningful if we learned our lesson from last year and continued to adopt safety measures such as mask wearing and distancing. A surge in cases took place from late January following the holidays when families and friends gathered despite the warning of health officials.
“We want to have a happy Christmas this time around, I think we will have it,” said Prof. Guido David of the OCTA Research Group last week. The OCTA Group has been monitoring the country’s Covid-19 response and making predictions on what will happen next in this pandemic.
News on the Merck pill is welcome but it is also a reminder that in the battle against Covid-19 one weapon is not enough. To defeat the “enemy,” we should have an array of resources at the disposal of medical frontliners and the public.