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Three Oral Antivirals Against COVID-19, Now In the Last Stages Of Trials

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 29, 2023

    Three Oral Antivirals Against COVID-19, Now In the Last Stages Of Trials

    While more and more people are getting the vaccine, a lot of patients still battle severe COVID-19 symptoms. In many cases, doctors prescribe them with antivirals, such as remdesivir, which costs about Php3,500 per vial, or tocilizumab, which prices range from Php13,000 to Php25,000. But now, experts are looking into three potential antivirals that people can take daily to curb severe symptoms and reduce transmission. Here’s the COVID-19 medicine update that might bring us one step closer to ending this pandemic.

    Antivirals Are Already Established Drugs

    Before we further explain the potential of the newly-developed antivirals against SARS-CoV-2, let’s first highlight that antivirals are already established drugs.

    Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), for instance, is a common antiviral that can prevent the development of severe flu symptoms when given early and even shorten its duration. Doctors also prescribe antivirals to treat AIDS and Hepatitis C.

    Come to think of it, remdesivir is a common drug for Hepatitis C. Experts simply repurposed it to work against COVID-19.

    COVID-19 Medicine Update: 3 Newly Developed Antivirals 

    If things go as planned, the world might just have at least one antiviral against COVID-19 within a few months.

    These medicines are molnupiravir by Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, PF-07321332 by Pfizer, and AT-527 by Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticals.

    Scientific investigators said these drugs inhibit the virus’ ability to replicate in human cells. This inability to replicate or reproduce means three things:

    • Less viral load
    • Shortened duration of illness
    • Prevention of drastic immune response that results in critical illness or death

    Among the 3, Molnupiravir is the Top Contender

    As for the COVID-19 medicine update, reports say among the three drugs, molnupiravir holds the strongest potential.

    It works by “manipulating” the enzyme responsible for making copies of the viral genetic material in such a way that it makes mistakes. These mistakes then prevent viral replication.

    In an early clinical trial involving more than 200 participants, researchers noted that molnupiravir “rapidly reduced the levels of infectious virus.”

    Rober Davis, Merck Chief Executive also said they expect results from their larger Phase 3 trial in the coming weeks. They were also looking into Emergency Use Authorization before 2021 ends.

    Pfizer and Atea were not far behind. September 2021, Pfizer just launched their combined Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials, while Atea expected results from their Phase 3 clinical trial later of the same year.

    How Are These Antivirals Different?

    Molnupiravir, PF-07321332, and AT-527 are taken orally for 5 to 10 days after diagnosis.

    Note that doctors don’t recommend remdesivir and tocilizumab in treating early infections. In many cases, doctors prescribe them for patients who exhibit moderate to severe symptoms while they are in the hospital.

    Depending on the results of the larger studies, the three antivirals may be given soon after confirming COVID-19 infection. Not only can they prevent severe symptoms, but they might also reduce transmission and even curtail the development of mild symptoms.

    The Philippines is Currently a Part of the Molnupiravir Study

    COVID-19 medicine update: Did you know that we are one of the participating countries in Phase 3 molnupiravir study?

    Participating hospitals are the Lung Center of the Philippines and Quirino Memorial Medical Center. Reports say they are still looking for participants with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. The goal is to prevent severe cases in need of hospitalization.

    Key Takeaways

    A COVID-19 medicine update many people want to hear: we might have at least one antiviral against SARS-C0V-2 soon.

    These antivirals are oral pills that patients can take 5 to 10 days after diagnosis. They work by preventing the replication of the virus in human cells. This reduces viral load, shortens the duration of the illness, and prevents drastic immune responses that lead to critical illness and death.

    Learn more about Coronavirus here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 29, 2023

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