Merck’s COVID-19 pill active against omicron in lab studies, company says

The pharmaceutical company Merck announced Friday that its experimental COVID-19 drug is effective against the omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to six independent studies.

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Merck, along with its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, said in the announcement that the studies have shown the oral drug molnupiravir is active against COVID-19 variants of concern.

“These findings from multiple independent in vitro studies showing that molnupiravir has consistent antiviral activity against Omicron, the primary variant circulating globally, provide additional confidence in the potential of molnupiravir as an important treatment option for certain adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for progressing to severe disease,” said Dr. Dean Y. Li, president, Merck Research Laboratories.

Molnupiravir was authorized in December for use in the U.S. in patients over age 18. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not authorize its use in patients younger than 18 because the drug may affect bone and cartilage growth.

The drug has not been tested on humans with omicron, but in lab research.