British scientists will begin testing Merck MRK.N and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics' antiviral pill molnupiravir as a possible treatment for patients hospitalised with COVID-19, amid the worldwide spread of the Omicron variant.
The pill is approved in Britain for use in people with mild to moderate COVID-19, but it is not known whether it would work in patients hospitalised with severe illness, researchers of the RECOVERY trial said on Monday.
The study will compare 800 mg doses of molnupiravir, given twice daily for five days, with standard care for adult patients in hospitals because of COVID-19.
In 2020, the same scientists conducting the large trial showed that dexamethasone was able to save the lives of COVID patients in what was called a "major breakthrough" in the coronavirus pandemic.
"Adding molnupiravir (to the study) will allow us to study this drug on its own, but also in combination with other COVID-19 treatments," said Peter Horby, joint chief investigator of the trial and Oxford University professor.
Treatments that have been or being tested in the RECOVERY trial include arthritis drug tocilizumab, steroid dexamethasone, common antibiotic azithromycin, painkiller aspirin, and antibody treatments from Regeneron and GSK-Vir.
(Reporting by Amna Karimi and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber) ((Amna.Karimi@thomsonreuters.com; +91 8083261226;))