Background: Easily distributed oral antivirals are urgently needed to treat coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), prevent progression to severe illness, and block transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We report the results of a Phase 2a trial evaluating the safety, tolerability, and antiviral efficacy of molnupiravir in the treatment of COVID-19 ( ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04405570 ).
Methods: Eligible participants included outpatients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptom onset within 7 days. Participants were randomized 1:1 to 200 mg molnupiravir or placebo, or 3:1 to molnupiravir (400 or 800 mg) or placebo, twice-daily for 5 days. Antiviral activity was assessed as time to undetectable levels of viral RNA by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and time to elimination of infectious virus isolation from nasopharyngeal swabs.
Results: Among 202 treated participants, virus isolation was significantly lower in participants receiving 800 mg molnupiravir (1.9%) versus placebo (16.7%) at Day 3 (p = 0.02). At Day 5, virus was not isolated from any participants receiving 400 or 800 mg molnupiravir, versus 11.1% of those receiving placebo (p = 0.03). Time to viral RNA clearance was decreased and a greater proportion overall achieved clearance in participants administered 800 mg molnupiravir versus placebo (p = 0.01). Molnupiravir was generally well tolerated, with similar numbers of adverse events across all groups.
Conclusions: Molnupiravir is the first oral, direct-acting antiviral shown to be highly effective at reducing nasopharyngeal SARS-CoV-2 infectious virus and viral RNA and has a favorable safety and tolerability profile.