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ORAL ANTIVIRAL DRUG VS COVID-19: Molnupiravir shows promise in phase three clinical trials

By Karl Andrei Luarez

PHOTO: Blogspot

It has been 17 months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, although vaccination efforts are practiced worldwide to end the pandemic, there is still no available treatment to kill this virus. However, scientists are finding drugs that can help stop the virus from progressing into something more severe, and infecting others, one of which is a promising drug called Molnupiravir.



Developed by Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, Molnupiravir is an experimental antiviral drug that was first developed for treating influenza, and is taken orally in the form of a pill. 

Although clinical trials are still ongoing for Molnupiravir, results from Phase I and Phase II trials suggest that this drug is effective against RNA viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.

The way Molnupiravir works is by insinuating itself into the RNA of the virus by acting as a ribonucleoside analog for RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase, an enzyme which SARS-CoV-2 uses to replicate. This increases the viral mutation rate of the virus, and prompts an error in the viral RNA grouping, bringing the viral replication to a halt, causing the virus to die. This process is called the viral error catastrophe.



Phase III clinical trials for Molnupiravir are being conducted worldwide in 100 countries. The Lung Center of the Philippines is the representative of the Philippines in the trials which started last May 17, 2021.

In an interview with ANC, Dr. Randy Castillo, Lung Center of the Philippines’ executive, said they have so far enrolled 11 out of 25 needed patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms to participate in the clinical trial, with 80-90% showing promising results. He also clarified that the patients were not admitted but instead monitored and managed at home.

Castillo said patients enrolled in the clinical trial were screened if they fit their inclusion criteria: mild to moderate symptoms, admitted within five days of onset, tested positive already, not vaccinated.
Castillo clarified that patients included in the trial were given 800mg of Molnupiravir taken twice a day within a period of five days. Patients were also allowed to take other drugs like antibiotics, antitussive, or dexamethasone.

Like COVID-19 vaccines, Molnupiravir also has side effects. “For our patients we only see absent to mild side effects, so this could include nausea, headache, GI upset, but this are all tolerable by the patients,” said Castillo, “and of course if you will weigh the benefits of the drugs as oppose to the side effects of course what matters most is the potential of the drug to help the patient,” Castillo added.



In the interview, Castillo called out to those interested in joining the trial to reach out to the Lung Center through 0915-567-5283 or 0917-899-9610.

Phase III clinical trial for Molnupiravir is expected to end somewhere between September to October 2021. And if the United States Food and Drug Administration approves this trial, comes a new hope to cease the COVID-19 Pandemic.