Dr. Anthony Fauci praised Sunday the results of a late-stage clinical trial of an experimental antiviral drug from Merck that public health experts hope could open a new front in the United States’ pandemic response.
“It’s extremely important,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN’s “State of the Union” — emphasizing that the drug, molnupiravir, can be taken by mouth as a pill.
Fauci’s remarks come after Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics announced Friday that they will seek FDA authorization for the drug “as soon as possible” after its encouraging performance in the clinical trial, which consisted of adults at high risk of severe Covid-19.
The independent review board overseeing the study recommended that it be ended early because of the drug’s positive results, and Fauci said Sunday the data was “really quite impressive.”
“It decreases the likelihood of getting hospitalization or dying in people who early in the course of their infection take this particular medication,” Fauci said of the drug, going on to describe what he considered another highlight of the trial.
“Among the deaths in the study, there were eight deaths among the placebo group and no deaths among those who took the medication,” Fauci said. “That’s very impressive. So we really look forward to the implementation of this and to its effect on people who are infected.”
At the same time, Fauci also discouraged vaccine-hesitant Americans from counting on being able to take the drug instead of getting their Covid-19 shot: “You heard the numbers. [The drug] decreased the risk … of hospitalizations and death by 50 percent. You know the way to decrease the risk by 100 percent? Don’t get infected in the first place.”