Pfizer and Merck COVID-19 antiviral progress

Generics/News | Posted 12/11/2021 post-comment0 Post your comment

Pfizer has announced that its COVID-19 oral antiviral candidate, Paxlovid, can significantly reduce hospitalization and death of COVID patients. At the same time, Merck is under pressure to get its COVID-19 antiviral, molnupiravir, to reach those in developing countries.

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Pfizer’s Paxlovid
In early November 2021, Pfizer announced that treatment with Paxlovid leads to an 89% reduction in risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization or death, when compared to placebo in patients treated within three days of symptom onset. These are the results of the interim analysis of their phase II/III EPIC-HR (Evaluation of Protease Inhibition for COVID-19 in High-Risk Patients) randomized, double-blind study of the drug used to treat non-hospitalized adult patients with COVID-19, who are at high risk of progressing to severe illness. In addition, in the overall study population through to Day 28 of the trial, no deaths were reported in patients who received Paxlovid, whereas 10 deaths were reported in patients who received the placebo.

Pfizer has stated that it plans to submit the data as part of its ongoing rolling submission to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) as soon as possible.

Merck’s molnupiravir
Merck developed molnupiravir in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. The drug is an oral antiviral agent that has been approved for the treatment of non-hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 in some countries, including the UK. It is the first antiviral pill for COVID-19 that can be taken at home, rather than in a hospital setting. Results of Merck’s study showed the drug reduced hospitalizations and deaths in a population of patients at risk of more severe outcomes by around 50%.

Merck has made commitments to ensure that the drug can be available to all, globally. The company announced that it will remain royalty-free whilst the World Health Organization classifies the pandemic as a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’. Merck has also partnered with companies in India to facilitate production and distribution of molnupiravir throughout India and to over a hundred low- and middle-income countries [1]. Despite these moves, Merck is under scrutiny as more needs to be done to facilitate global access to the drug.

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1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Merck partners with Indian drugmakers to increase access to COVID 19 drug []. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2021 Nov 12]. Available from:

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