Merck expects COVID-19 pill molnupiravir to be effective against Omicron

An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters May 17, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS

Jan 10 (Reuters) - Merck's COVID-19 oral pill molnupiravir has a mechanism of action that can work against Omicron and any other variant, a company executive said on Monday.

"We're very confident that it will effect Omicron ... This mechanism in molecule (will) work for Omicron, and I would imagine against any variant that comes up," Dean Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said at J.P. Morgan's annual healthcare conference.

Data on molnupiravir's impact against Omicron is not yet available, but the pill was shown to be 30% effective at reducing hospitalizations and deaths, based on data from 1,433 patients, as per latest data released in November.

However, this data showed significantly less effectiveness as compared to the previous figure of 50%. read more

The pill had received authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month, as well as in several other countries like the UK, Japan and India, with various countries including U.S. signing agreements to buy the drug. read more

Reporting by Leroy Leo; Editing by Bernard Orr

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.