UK regulators have granted authorization to Merck’s coronavirus Antiviral, the first pill shown to successfully treat COVID-19. It is the first country to permit the treatment, although it was not immediately clear how quickly the pill would be available.The pill was licensed for adults 18 and older who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have at least one risk factor for developing severe disease. The drug, known as molnupiravir, is intended to be taken twice a day for five days by people at home with mild to moderate COVID-19.
A Covid 19 Antiviral pill that reduces symptoms and speeds recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing caseloads on hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with fragile health systems. It would also bolster the treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.
Molnupiravir is also pending review at regulators in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last month it would convene a panel of independent experts to scrutinize the pill’s safety and effectiveness in late November.
Initial supplies will be limited. Merck has said it can produce 10 million treatment courses through the end of the year, but much of that supply has already been purchased by governments worldwide. U.K. officials announced they secured 480,000 courses of molnupiravir and expected thousands of vulnerable Britons to have access to the treatment this winter via a national study.