Eric Douglas Published

State Coronavirus Czar Hopeful For New COVID-19 Treatment On Horizon

Clay Marsh.jpg

The state’s coronavirus czar offered support Friday for the announcement by the pharmaceutical company Merck, that progress has been made with a new treatment for COVID-19 called molnupiravir.

Marsh said at Gov. Jim Justice’s coronavirus news conference that the treatment can reduce hospitalizations by 50 percent and eliminate deaths for people with mild to moderate disease.

“This is another exciting tool that we very well may get in our tool belt,” Marsh said. “And this might be able to augment the use of the monoclonal antibodies and people at risk.”

There is no official delivery date for this new treatment.

James Hoyer, head of the Joint Interagency Coronavirus Task Force, said shipments of those monoclonal antibodies have been delayed with seven states with low vaccination rates receiving the lion’s share.

Last week, the state expected 3,000 doses but only received 1,368. This week, the state expected to receive 1,584 doses, but as of Friday had only received 156.

The antibody treatment is about 80 percent effective, while the new oral medication is thought to be about 50 percent effective. It is more convenient for rural areas though. It is in pill form and does not require refrigeration. The dosage is two pills a day for five days, according to Marsh.

“Even though it’s a little bit less effective than the antibody treatment, it is still really good,” Marsh said. “It reduced the risk of death to zero in the 29 days, in which 775 people who were part of the clinical trial participated.”

Eighty people have died from COVID-19 since Justice’s last briefing on Wednesday. A total of 3,722 West Virginians have died since the start of the pandemic. Justice became visibly emotional when he read the age of a 30-year-old male from Wetzel County. He noted the man was younger than both of his own children.