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A new COVID-19 medication has been introduced that could reduce chances of hospitalization and death by 50%. Molnupiravir, which was introduced by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, could become the first oral antiviral that fights COVID IF-19 if it’s approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

“At the interim analysis, molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50%,” Merck and Ridgeback said in a news release about their findings. “7.3% of patients who received molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died through Day 29 following randomization (28/385), compared with 14.1% 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.”

Molnupiravir is meant to be used early after COVID-19 diagnosis. The other medicine that is used in the hospital is

Remdesivir, which is given intravenously and not meant for early use.

“This is going to change the dialogue around how to manage COVID-19,” Robert Davis, Merck’s chief executive officer, told Reuters.

Molnupiravir fights the virus by introducing errors into the genetic code of the virus. Participants in Merck and Ridgeback’s study had been diagnosed with COVID-19 no more than five days prior and took Molnupiravir every 12 hours for five days. It was found that Molnupiravir is effective against fighting all COVID-19 variants as well.

Merck and Ridgeback told Reuters that the antiviral is “not capable of inducing genetic changes in human cells, but men enrolled in its trials have to abstain from heterosexual intercourse or agree to use contraception. Women of child-bearing age cannot be pregnant and also have to use birth control.”

Pfizer is also working on a COVID-19 antiviral. Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Mikael Dolsten told CBS that they are working on a medication to be administered to people who are in close contact with others who have the virus.

The at- home medication will be prescribed “at the first sign of infection, without requiring that patients are hospitalized or in critical care,” Dolsten said.

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