Merck and Pfizer have announced positive results for their Covid-19 treatment drugs, while an antidepressant also shows promise, opening a new chapter in the future.

Merck’s drug molnupiravir has been approved in the UK (Photo: Merck/TNS).

The pills offer hope for ending the pandemic

These are pills that patients can take as soon as the first symptoms of Covid-19 appear to avoid serious complications and hospitalization.

This form of treatment has been sought since the start of the global health crisis.

In early October, Merck said the company was applying for a license in the US for the drug molnupiravir.

Both molnupiravir and paxlovid are antiviral drugs that work by reducing the ability of the virus to replicate and slowing the progression of the disease.

Both American pharmaceutical companies said that clinical trials showed that their drugs significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization due to Covid-19.

Those taking the drug molnupiravir were 50% less likely and those taking the drug paxlovid were nearly 90% less likely to be hospitalized.

The efficacy rates of molnupiravir and paxlovid should not be directly compared due to different study conditions.

Fluvoxamine, an antidepressant that is now available, has also shown encouraging results in preventing the possibility of severe Covid-19, according to research published in October by Brazilian scientists in the journal

The importance of drugs to treat Covid-19

If the effectiveness of the above drugs is confirmed, this will be a big step forward in the fight against Covid-19.

Along with vaccines, drugs to treat Covid-19 can supplement and diversify the global arsenal of tools to deal with the pandemic.

Existing methods are mainly in the form of monoclonal antibodies and are all injectable, so they are more difficult to use.

Treatment drugs from Merck and Pfizer can be taken in 10 doses over a 5-day course and have not shown any side effects.

`The success of these antiviral drugs has the potential to mark a new era in preventing serious consequences from Covid-19,` said UK virologist Stephen Griffin.

However, until now it has been difficult to appropriately evaluate Merck and Pfizer’s treatments because both companies have only made statements and have not released clinical trial data.

French infectious diseases expert Karine Lacombe warned in September that such claims should be treated with caution until the studies are thoroughly reviewed.

Countries are racing to order Covid-19 treatment drugs early

The potential of drugs to treat Covid-19 could open up a `huge` market for pharmaceutical corporations.

Currently, US and EU health officials are still evaluating drugs to treat Covid-19.

The European Medicines Agency on November 4 promised to `speed up` the evaluation process but did not specify a specific timeline.

Meanwhile, some countries quickly ordered Covid-19 treatment drugs from both Merck and Pfizer.

According to Reuters, Merck has signed 9 contracts to sell more than 3 million courses of molnupiravir.

Australia ordered 300,000 doses and France 50,000 doses of molnupiravir.

The US has now secured `millions` of doses of Pfizer’s paxlovid drug, while the UK has ordered 250,000 courses.

In terms of price, the $1.2 billion that the US agreed to pay for 1.7 million courses of monupiravir means that a 5-day course costs about $700.

Although Pfizer has not yet announced a price for paxlovid, it promises that the drug will be `affordable` and is expected to stratify prices based on countries’ income levels.