Merck’s COVID-19 pills show lower efficacy in updated data

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(Reuters) – Merck said Friday that updated data from its study of its experimental COVID-19 pill showed the drug was less effective at reducing hospital admissions and deaths than previously reported.

The drugmaker said its pills showed a 30% reduction in hospital admissions and deaths, based on data from more than 1,400 patients. In October, its data showed an efficacy of nearly 50%, based on data from 775 patients.

Merck shares were down 3% to $79.80 in premarket trading amid a pullback in the broader markets.

The company applied for a US license for molnoperavir on October 11, following provisional statements.

Merck said Friday that data for molnopiravir, which was developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, has been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ahead of a meeting of its expert advisors on Tuesday.

FDA scientists are expected to publish their summary documents before the meeting early Friday.

The committee is expected to vote on whether to recommend that the agency authorize oral capsules to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults at risk of severe disease.

A planned interim analysis of the data last month showed that 7.3% of those treated with molnopiravir twice a day for five days were hospitalized and none died for 29 days after treatment. This compared to a hospital admission rate of 14.1% for patients receiving placebo.

In the updated data, 6.8% of those treated with molnopiravir were hospitalized and one person died, while the hospitalization rate in the placebo group was 9.7%. (Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shonak Dasgupta)

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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