US drugmaker Merck & Co and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have stated that the data from six preclinical studies of its molnupiravir COVID-19 pill showed “consistent antiviral activity” against the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The preclinical studies were conducted independently in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and the US. Molnupiravir is currently authorized for use in 10 countries.
The results from studies show “that molnupiravir has consistent antiviral activity against Omicron, the primary variant circulating globally,” said Dr. Dean Y Li, the President of Merck Research Laboratories.
These findings offer additional confidence in the potential of molnupiravir as an important treatment option for certain adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for progressing to severe disease, Dr. Li added.
“Based on its mechanism of action, along with these new findings demonstrating in vitro activity across multiple variants, including Omicron, we anticipate that molnupiravir will continue to be active against variants of concern and an important tool in the fight against COVID-19,” said Ms. Wendy Holman, CEO of Ridgeback.
The Omicron variant has numerous mutations, particularly in the spike protein that dots the virus’s surface and is key to entering human cells. As a result, some treatments are no longer effective against the variant.
But antiviral pills do not target the protein, this means that such a treatment method is variant proof and encourages confidence in the drugs’ lasting effectiveness, including against future variants.
Pfizer has also developed an anti-COVID pill, marketed as Paxlovid. In mid-January, the US pharmaceutical company said that the in vitro studies suggest Paxlovid will remain effective against Omicron.