Merck’s oral anti-covid drug Lagevrio did not offer a “statistically meaningful reduction” in viral load

Tuesday’s Merck report stating that Lagevrio did not offer a “statistically meaningful reduction” in the probability of COVID-19 following household exposure to the virus served as further confirmation. In the phase 3 MOVe-AHEAD trial, more than 1,500 patients who were COVID-19-free and shared a home with a recent COVID-19 diagnosis were observed.

After 14 days, patients taking Lagevrio had a 23.6% lower chance of developing COVID than those taking a placebo. Despite the results being “scientifically interesting,” Lagevrio failed to reach the trial’s main goal, according to Dean Li, M.D., Ph.D., president of Merck Research Laboratories.

Before it was even approved for use in the United States, Merck and Ridgeback’s oral antiviral Lagevrio (molnupiravir), which had been first hailed as a revolutionary COVID-19 treatment, had lost some of its luster. Nonetheless, despite accumulating evidence of the drug’s poor efficacy, over $6.6 billion in sales achieved throughout its first five quarters on the market.

Merck sought to make a case for the use of Lagevrio as a preventative medicine. It is now recommended for persons who have contracted the virus and run the risk of developing COVID-19’s severe form.


Five COVID-19 medications, including AZ’s Evusheld and Merck’s Lagevrio, receive negative reviews from NICE. When Merck and Ridgeback revealed that the first-of-its-kind medication reduced the risk of hospitalization and mortality in at-risk COVID patients by 50% in October 2021, there was a lot of enthusiasm surrounding it.

A day after the United Kingdom approved the use of molnupiravir, Pfizer claimed that Paxlovid, their oral antiviral alternative, had an 89% reduction in hospitalization risk in November. Then in December, the United States approved the use of molnupiravir, but only after a divided FDA advisory group decided in favor of doing so by a vote of 13 to 10.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, just 1.1 of the 2.9 million Lagevrio courses that were sent to the U.S. up until this point have been administered. In the meantime, 8.1 million of the 12.1 million Paxlovid courses prescribed in the US have been administered.

While the FDA opted to permit pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid in July of last year, the authority did not provide Lagevrio the same privilege. The United States placed a large wager on molnupiravir’s potential six months before it was even approved, pledging to pay $1.2 billion for 1.7 million courses of the medication.


Merck makes history by licensing its COVID-19 medication to a worldwide health organization. A Lagevrio real-world trial conducted in the UK four months ago revealed that the vaccine did not lower the likelihood of hospitalization or mortality among people who had received it. Later in November, the use of Lagevrio and four other COVID medications was discouraged by Europe’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Merck predicted that Lagevrio sales will reach $1 billion this year after reaching $5.7 billion last year in its fourth quarter earnings release.

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