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Pfizer, Merck develop antiviral drug for Coronavirus, check efficacy, price, safety standards – The Financial Express

In the last 24 hours, 3,480 new COVID-19 cases were reported, taking the national tally to 1,201,367. (File)

In a significant development strengthening the fight against Coronavirus pandemic, US pharma majors Pfizer Inc and Merck & Co Inc have developed antiviral pills against Coronavirus which have shown promising results during their preliminary trials. The efficacy of the antiviral pills were put to trial among the adults who were at high risk of contracting Coronavirus. The pharma companies have also begun the trials of the antiviral pills among adults who have already been exposed to Coronavirus, news agency Reuters reported. Here is an explanation of the differences in the two pills.

What did the trials show?
While the pharma majors have not revealed the whole spectrum of data related to the trials, the antiviral drug developed by Pfizer seems to have better efficacy in comparison to that of the Merck and Co Inc. As per the trial results the Pfizer pill reduces the likelihood of hospitalization or casualty by about 89% among the COVID-19 patients. The trials showed that if the patient of Coronavirus is administered the pill within three days of the onset of infection the chances of hospitalisation reduce by as much as 89%. The efficacy reduces to about 85% if the medicine is administered within five days of the onset of Coronavirus.

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On the other hand, the drug developed by Merck is understood to have lowered the probability of hospitalization or death by 50% if the medicine is administered within five days of the onset of infection. While Pfizer has named its Coronavirus drug Paxlovid, Merck’s drug will be known as Lavgevrio in the United Kingdom where the companies had sought and got regulatory approval.

Why are Pfizer and Merck & Co Inc drugs important?
While there are several vaccines against Coronavirus which are being administered across different parts of the world, this is one of the first treatment options which might prove effective in curing people of Coronavirus. While vaccines are kind of an insurance against probable future incidence of Coronavirus infection, the antiviral drug developed by these companies can turn out to be a readily available treatment for those who have unfortunately contracted the disease.

Are these drugs safe?
While the pharma companies have only released limited data from the trials they have maintained that the drugs are safe to be administered. Pfizer said that about 20 percent of the volunteers who were administered the drug showed mild adverse events and only 1.7% of the volunteers showed serious side-effects. Similarly Merck said that about 12 percent of its volunteers showed adverse events during the trials.

What is the cost of Pfizer and Merck drugs?
The government of the United States has actually secured the initial supplies of the Merck drug by paying about $1.2 billion for a total of 1.7 million drug courses. In other words, the Merck drug cost for each patient for now is about $700 which is about Rs 50000. The government of the United Kingdom has also secured the supplies of Pfizer antiviral drug but the negotiated price between the two parties has not been made public.

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