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'substantial clinical impact'

COVID-19 pill cuts hospitalizations and deaths in half, Merck says

An experimental pill from Merck was shown in a trial to cut the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization and death in half, the company has announced.

The drugmaker said Friday that in a trial, those who received its pill to treat COVID-19, molnupiravir, within five days of experiencing symptoms had half the rate of hospitalization and death as patients who received a placebo, The Associated Press reports. According to Merck, the rate of hospitalizations or deaths was 7.3 percent among those patients who received molnupiravir compared to 14.1 percent for the placebo group. 

Merck said it plans to seek emergency use authorization for the pill, which the company noted would become the first oral antiviral medicine to treat COVID-19 if approved. Merck CEO Robert M. Davis said the "compelling results" left the company "optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic." Merck Research Laboratories Vice President Dr. Dean Li also told The Associated Press that the results "exceeded what I thought the drug might be able to do in this clinical trial," adding, "When you see a 50 percent reduction in hospitalization or death that's a substantial clinical impact." 

The company says that if approved, it expects to produce 10 million doses of molnupiravir by the end of 2021.