Merck targets Pfizer’s Covid pill as concerns persist over its own drug – .

Merck targets Pfizer’s Covid pill as concerns persist over its own drug – .

Merck has defended the safety profile of its Covid antiviral pill and claimed that a competing treatment developed by Pfizer would create problems for some patients taking drugs for other medical conditions.

The product review from a competitor of Merck comes as the US Food and Drug Administration plans to approve its antiviral drug molnupiravir, the first easy-to-administer oral treatment for Covid-19.

Last week, a panel of external FDA experts narrowly voted in favor of greenlighting Merck’s drug by a 13-10 margin. But some members have expressed concerns about its effectiveness and safety, including if it could cause birth defects if caught. by pregnant women or potentially helping to breed new variants of Covid.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Eliav Barr, senior vice president of global medical affairs at Merck, said both antiviral drugs are needed to protect people from the virus because some patients may not be able to take the virus. ‘one or the other of the treatments due. possible side effects.

However, the requirement that Pfizer’s antiviral pill be taken with ritonavir, a drug used to treat HIV, would make treatment inappropriate for many people with pre-existing health conditions, he added.

“Ritonavir, which has been used in the treatment of HIV for many years, is a drug that specifically inhibits the body’s ability to break down drugs,” Barr said. “The problem is, it’s incredibly non-specific. So there is a whole host of drugs that people take, especially those drugs, unfortunately, that are associated with conditions that pose risks. “

A study published in the scientific journal Nature last week identified a “high overall frequency” of drug-drug interactions in high-risk Covid-19 patients in Spain treated with the antiviral drug lopinavir and ritonavir while in hospital. Such interactions have been “alarmingly overlooked in the context of the Covid-19 health crisis,” the study authors concluded.

Pfizer has stated that ritonavir has a well characterized safety profile when used alone or in combination with other drugs. While this can lead to drug interactions, these could be managed in many cases, he added.

“For drugs that share a common pathway for drug metabolism like the oral antiviral from Pfizer, during the five-day treatment period, most patients would be able to adjust the dose of their drugs and then to return to a normal dosage after completing the oral antiviral regimen. “Said a spokeswoman for Pfizer.

The authorization and commercial performance of molnupiravir is important to Merck which, unlike Pfizer, has not developed a vaccine against Covid-19. If the FDA grants emergency use authorization for the drug, the US government has a contract to purchase 3.1 million courses for $ 2.2 billion.

Merck shares lost 17% of value in the past month after data was released showing Pfizer Paxlovid’s antiviral pill is more effective than molnupiravir in reducing risk of hospitalization or death from Covid .

UK and EU regulators granted emergency use or conditional clearance for the treatment last month.

However, the clearances were granted before Merck released final clinical trial data showing the drug was 30 percent effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization and death in high-risk patients. This was significantly lower than the 50 percent efficiency announced by Merck in October based on a preliminary analysis of the data.

Last week, Citi downgraded Merck from “buy” to “neutral,” noting the “clinical profile of [molnupiravir] continues to deteriorate ”.

Barr of Merck said the safety profile of molnupiravir was “very strong” and that many governments had expressed interest in sourcing it in order to fight Covid.


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