The treatment against Covid-19 from the Merck laboratory, intended for adults at high risk of developing a severe form of the disease, was urgently authorized, Thursday, December 23, by the American Medicines Agency (FDA), the day after authorization of a similar pill developed by Pfizer.
“Today’s authorization adds a new treatment against Covid-19, in the form of a pill that can be taken orally”, said FDA official Patrizia Cavazzoni. Medically developed by Merck, a laboratory known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, can be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms, and reduces the risk of hospitalization and death by 30 % of the fragile population.
On Wednesday, the FDA cleared Pfizer’s treatment, marketed as Paxlovid, which reduces that same risk by 90%, according to early studies. This treatment consists of a combination of two pills taken twice a day for five days. It may be given to high-risk patients aged 12 years and over.
Complementary treatments to the vaccine
Merck’s treatment, named Lagevrio, is administered with eight doses per day for five days. It works by entering the genome of the virus to cause mutations that limit its reproduction.
In its press release, the FDA insists that these two treatments are complementary to the vaccine, which must remain the main tool in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
While clinical trials have not detected any major risks to patients for the two drugs, Merck’s was of more concern.
The US drug agency has not approved the Merck pill for children under the age of 18 because it could affect the development of bones and cartilage. It is also not recommended for pregnant women, due to the potential risk to the fetus, but doctors can ignore it if the benefits outweigh the risks.
The United States bought 3.1 million treatments from Merck and 10 million from Pfizer. The country faces, two days before Christmas, the rapid advance of the Omicron variant, now the majority in the United States.