An experimental antiviral drug called molnupiravir – developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics – has shown promise in preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, according to BioSpace.

In the initial analysis from the Phase III trial, the drug showed a significantly reduced risk for hospitalization and death in adult patients by nearly 50%.

After 29 days, only 7.3% of the participants were either hospitalized or died than 14.1% of the participants who received a placebo. The trial reported no deaths.

Merck will soon apply for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the FDA.

Robert Davis, Merck President and CEO, said, “More tools and treatments are urgently needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become a leading cause of death and continues to profoundly affect patients, families, and societies and strain health care systems all around the world.”

“With these compelling results, we are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic and will add to Merck’s unique legacy of bringing forward breakthroughs in infectious diseases when they are needed most,” he added.

Merck expects to manufacture 10 million courses of molnupiravir by the end of this year. The company has also signed a procurement agreement with the federal government early this year, The agreement will allow the company to supply nearly 1.7 million doses of the drug to the government after getting approval from the FDA and EUA.

Meanwhile, Laurent Pharmaceuticals’ once-daily oral COVID-19 drug, called LAU-7b, has shown efficacy against death and disease progression in moderate-to-severe patients. However, it failed to achieve its overall primary endpoint where the total involved those who were critically ill, according to BioSpace.

Dr. Radu Pislariu, Laurent President and CEO, said, “The results from the moderate-to-severe subgroup are very promising, suggestive of a potential clinical benefit of LAU-7b in COVID-19 patients that are not yet in respiratory failure, which also represents the patient population with the fewest treatment options.”

“An oral therapeutic that prevents serious COVID-19 illness and death, also allowing patients to continue the treatment at home after discharge from hospital, would be a powerful tool in the therapeutic arsenal against COVID-19,” added Dr. Pislariu.

LAU-7b is one of the oral forms of fenretinide, a drug that was shown to have antiviral properties against COVID-19 in vitro, especially when combined with remdesivir (Veklury), developed by Gilead Sciences. The story appeared on BioSpace.