Getting to know the drug Molnupiravir to treat symptoms of COVID-19

COVID-19 is still endemic and the cases are increasing every day. Until now, there is no medicine that can definitively cure COVID-19. However, in early October, the Merck trademark reported on a new drug called Molnupiravir that was predicted to prevent severe symptoms from COVID-19. What is the medicine like?

What is Molnupiravir?

Molnupiravir is a drug that belongs to a class of antivirals called mutagenic ribonucleosides. This drug is in the form of pills or tablets that must be taken orally.

Molnupiravir works by changing the genetic material of the virus to prevent the virus from multiplying. The SARS-CoV-2 virus uses RNA as its genetic material. Well, the structure of the drug molnupiravir resembles nucleosides or chemical building blocks used to make viral RNA.

When it enters the bloodstream, the drug will insert itself into the viral RNA as it is being synthesized. Synthesis is the stage of division of viral genetic material using the main material from the host cell's genetic material.

Inside the host cell, molnupiravir is converted to molnupiravir triphosphate. When the virus tries to replicate, molnupiravir that has entered the viral RNA will cause mutations.

This drug mutation will stop the virus from dividing itself. When RNA is converted into viral proteins, these proteins already contain too many mutations for the virus to be unable to replicate. This keeps the amount of virus in the body low and reduces the severity of the disease.

Once approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Mulnopiravir will be the first oral drug to treat COVID-19.

How effective is Molnupiravir in treating the symptoms of COVID-19?

Merck, the pharmaceutical company that is developing Molnupiravir, has conducted a small-scale trial to determine the effectiveness of this drug in alleviating the symptoms of COVID-19.

In the phase 3 trial, researchers gave molnupiravir and a placebo drug to 775 participants who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Participants experienced mild to moderate symptoms.

Each participant had at least one risk factor for severe COVID-19 but had never been hospitalized. These risk factors include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and being over 60 years old.

Participants were divided into two groups, one receiving molnupiravir and the other receiving a placebo drug. Participants had to take the capsules twice daily for five days.

Of the 385 patients taking molnupiravir, 28 were hospitalized. Meanwhile, from the group given the placebo drug, there were 53 people who had to be hospitalized.

Eight of the placebo group participants died, while all those who received Molnupiravir were still alive at the end of the study period 29 days later.

In addition, experiments conducted by Ridgeback Therapeutics also showed promising results.

Among the 202 participants, the amount of virus in the body of participants who were given a dose of 800 mg Molnupiravir was significantly lower, namely 1.9 percent when compared to participants who were given the placebo drug (16.7%).

Are there any side effects?

There is still concern that the mechanism by which molnupiravir interferes with viral RNA replication could have a similar effect on human DNA or RNA.

However, data from laboratory studies do not indicate that Molnupiravir can cause mutations in humans.

Some widely approved and widely used antiviral drugs such as acyclovir and drugs for herpes and HIV infections also work to inhibit viral DNA or RNA replication. So, users don't need to worry too much about this.

Based on the trials released by the company, the drug Molnupiravir can be said to be quite safe. There were no serious side effects in the trial participants.

However, this drug still requires further safety evaluation from the FDA. In addition, the effect is not yet known whether it is safe or not for pregnant women. This is because the study did not test this drug on pregnant women with COVID-19.

The researchers also asked male participants in the trial not to have unprotected sex with women for a week after undergoing treatment with Molnupiravir.

Global marketing of the drug Molnupiravir

Knowing its potential to treat COVID-19 symptoms and the ease with which Molnupiravir can be used, many countries are interested in buying this drug, including Indonesia.

However, it is not yet known with certainty whether Molnupiravir will be accessible worldwide. In addition to licensing issues, the issue of price must also be considered.

The United States has agreed to buy Molnupiravir at a price of US$700 per course. Although this price is considerably cheaper than the price of other drugs such as Remdesivir, this price may still be quite expensive for some people

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