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Used More Than Expected

Doctors have been prescribing higher levels of molnupiravir, an antiviral pill from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to treat COVID-19, than expected, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In clinical trial data, molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization and death among high-risk COVID-19 patients by 30 percent, a lower efficacy than Merck had first announced and lower than the 89 percent reduction in risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization or death conferred by Pfizer's antiviral drug, Paxlovid.

But the Journal notes that molnupiravir and Paxlovid have been prescribed at about the same rate, in part due to the limited available supply of Paxlovid and due to patients taking other drugs that might interact with Paxlovid. It adds that about 74,700 prescriptions for molnupiravir and more than 79,150 for Paxlovid were filled through late February.

"In a lot of our markets, the thing that we can actually get our hands on is molnupiravir," Ali Khan, chief medical officer of value-based strategy at Oak Street Health, tells the Journal.

Bryan Jarabek, chief medical informatics officer at M Health Fairview, adds at the Journal that "it is still better than nothing."

The Journal notes that Pfizer expects to have 6 million courses of Paxlovid by the end of March and 30 million by the end of the first half of the year.

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