TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — An experimental pill meant to combat COVID-19 could soon be used for widespread treatment.
Jun Wang, an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona says the clinical trial results look promising.
"It could be a game-changer. In antiviral drug development for us to win the game, we have to be one step ahead,” he told KGUN9.
That’s exactly what Wang says the Merck drug will help them do, killing two birds with one stone.
“This molecule can take care of both flu viral infection as well as SARS COVID-2 infection,” he says.
That’s not all this new drug can do.
“Patients can take it orally, which means you can widely distribute to...to larger populations,” Wang told KGUN9.
He says there’s already an FDA-approved antiviral drug to treat COVID-19 called Remdesivir, but this treatment must be given by injection.
“This molecule behaves better than Remdesivir, which means it’s more effective,” he added when talking about the Merck drug.
Another perk of the new drug in clinical trials is that it can remain effective through future COVID-19 mutations.
“Regardless of how this coronavirus or SARS CoV-2 virus is going to change or mutate, with those drugs we can not only take care of the current crisis but maybe also prevent future, similar coronavirus outbreaks,” he told KGUN9.
Here’s the difference between antiviral drugs and vaccines.
“Vaccines can prevent people from getting infected but once you are infected by the virus, vaccines are not going to help. You need to take antiviral drugs. The drugs are the ones that can stop the virus from replicating. That’s basically the cure which we are looking for,” said Wang.
He says antiviral drugs only work if the treatment is started early on. The goal of this treatment is to prevent patients from progressing to severe infections.
At this point, the Merck drug has already passed the phase one safety test and is in the process of phase two and three combined trials.
Here they will test how effective the drug is, in doing its designated job.
“Then probably by summertime we will have another drug for COVID-19,” Wang told KGUN9.
Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are the developers of the new antiviral drug.