The medicine that could make us bid Covid-19 adieu10 min readReading Time: 7 minutes
Today we’re here to talk about one of the world’s best-guarded secrets. Something that very few people in the world have heard about. It’s called the Coronavirus or Covid-19.
Cruel jokes aside, we bear exciting and promising news in a welcome change. We could soon have a very effective medicine against the Coronavirus.
Before we meet this potential love of our lives, let’s take a brief look at the weapons we have to fight the virus.
Our Cache of Armour
Our arsenal is packed with various methods that we can use to drive the Coronavirus out of existence. The first method is simple. It’s wearing masks and keeping a distance. But as we’ve seen, distancing and masking up isn’t always possible. Moreover, mask-wearing isn’t 100% effective. Too many people either don’t wear masks correctly or at all!
The next weapon we have is the vaccine. With a massive population like ours getting everyone vaccinated will take a while. The government has promised that all Indians will be completely vaccinated by the end of 2021. However, only 3 per cent of us are vaccinated so far!
So, vaccines are, well, taking their time. And even they aren’t 100 per cent effective. That being said, you must get vaccinated as soon as you can as vaccines protect you from falling severely ill.
The last method we have to combat Covid-19 is medicines. Unlike vaccines, lockdowns, and masks that work before the virus enters the body, medicines do their work once you have already been infected with the virus. And since the virus is still free-flowing and infecting people willy-nilly, we need medicines more than ever.
However, so far, we don’t have any effective drugs against Covid-19. We have some that target symptoms and complications of the illness, but we don’t have much to fight off the virus itself.
We do have some medicines that doctors are using to fight Covid-19. Some, such as the steroid dexamethasone, fight our bodies overreaction to the Covid-19 virus. Others, like the widely used drug remdesivir, fight the virus itself but aren’t very effective. Yet, with no better choice, doctors are forced to use underwhelming medicines and hope for the best.
But….drumroll please… that could all change soon. The medicine that we are here to talk about today is the drug known as Molnupiravir, or EIDD-2801, or MK-4482. It is an antiviral that was first developed by the medicine developing company Merck. They used scientific studies of the researchers at Emory University who had created to create EIDD-2801 to combat the Influenza virus.
However, early in 2020 scientists realised that this pill may be efficient when it comes to battering Covid-19 as well. Then Merk partnered with the biotechnology company Ridgeback Therapeutics to create millions of Molnupiravir pills and begin the medicine’s clinical trials.
Before we find out about what’s going on in the trials, let’s get to know Molnupiravir a little bit.
How it Works
The pill can be used to treat patients with mild and moderate Covid-19 and is said to eliminate the virus in just 24 hours. Molnupiravir is made of chemical compounds(mixtures) that prevent the virus from doubling, tripling, quadrupling and slowly filling the body. This is great, since the more of the virus there is in the body, the harder it gets for us to fight it off.
The pill works by putting an error in the code of the vaccine’s RNA or genetic material. This error prevents the genetic material of the virus from getting copied, and thus the virus cannot replicate.
So, the Covid 19 virus isn’t able to spread in the body and overwhelm your body’s defence or immune systems. With the assistance of MK-4482, the body can defeat the virus in just 24 hours and prevent you from falling too ill.
But that’s not all. Scientists have also found that the medicine can most likely make the virus incapable of spreading to other humans as well. This means that within just 24 hours, the infected person could no longer be infectious!
How do you think the unique feature of the pill mentioned above will affect future outbreaks?
Since the medicine works to prevent the spread of the virus, it works best within the first five days of the illness. After that, the virus has either been successfully defeated by your immune system or has overwhelmed the body, and its numbers are already just too high. In that situation, a safe amount of the medicine would probably not be able to get the job done.
Molnupiravir’s journey so far:
Molnupiravir is at the end of the road of its clinical trial. First, it was tested in the lab. There, scientists found that the virus kills the Covid-19 virus cells in just 24 hours. Next, it was tested on animals.
Clinical trials are a long-drawn process to know all about how they happen and what really goes on, click here:
Scientists chose to test the drug on ferrets, as ferrets have lungs and organ systems extremely similar to humans. They also catch and spread Covid-19 much like humans. That’s why it was all the more exciting when the scientists discovered that MK-4482 not only blocks Covid-19 from replicating in ferrets bodies but also makes them non-infectious in just 24 hours!!
To know more about the link between ferrets, humans, and Covid-19, click here:
Then, Molnupiravir was tried in humans in the UK and the US. The Phase 1 trial in the UK found that the pill was safe and well-tolerated by the human body. The Phase 2 trial was even more promising! Each and every Covid-19 patient who received Molnupiravir for five days tested negative for Covid-19 after the five-day treatment.
Phase 3- Molnupiravir comes to India
Now, the pill is set to complete its path to authorisation and widespread use in India. The Phase3 or final phase trial has been granted permission by the DCGI. The DCGI, or Drug Controller General of India, monitors the legal use of medicines by doctors in the country. Now, they have allowed the Indian company Natco Pharmaceuticals to collaborate with Indian hospitals to test the drug. So far, 32 hospitals have already signed on for the trial!
The trial will enrol patients over the age of 18 who have tested positive for Covid-19 but aren’t yet in hospital. They will be given the medicine twice a day for five days and will be monitored for a month after that to know if:
Molnupiravir is safe and isn’t causing any side effects.
Molnupiravir works to stop the replication of Covid-19.
If both these criteria are met… drumroll again… you may have just been acquainted with our most powerful, deadly superweapon against Covid-19!
What do you think the impact of pills like Molnupiravir will be on doctors and hospitals?
Will this pill affect the economy? Why?
Do you think we’ll need more total lockdowns if a pill like this is introduced in the market?
Even though scientists and doctors have generated several ways to fight off Covid-19, the best way that you can help yourself is by wearing a mask and washing your hands regularly. Also, make sure you register to get vaccinated as soon as it is available to people your age. Stay home and stay safe!
With Excerpts From: The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Print, Economic Times, Merck Pharmaceuticals, The New Yorker, FirstPost, Hindustan Times, Precisionvaccinations.com, and Science Daily.