UK OKs the First COVID Pill

UK aims to deploy molnupiravir 'as soon as possible'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 4, 2021 9:05 AM CDT
First Country Approves Pill to Treat COVID
This undated image provided by Merck & Co. shows their new antiviral medication against COVID-19.   (Merck & Co. via AP, File)

Britain granted conditional authorization on Thursday to the only pill shown to successfully treat COVID-19 so far. It is the first country to OK the treatment from drugmaker Merck, although it wasn't immediately clear how quickly the pill would be available, the AP reports. 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, such as obesity or heart disease. Patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 would take four pills of the drug, known as molnupiravir, twice a day for five days. 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. In October, UK officials announced they secured 480,000 courses.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the government was working with the National Health Service "to set out plans to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible." Preliminary results, not yet peer reviewed, showed the drug cut hospitalizations and deaths by half among patients with early COVID-19 symptoms. Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency noted studies in rats showed molnupiravir "may cause harmful effects to the unborn offspring, although this was at doses which were higher than those that will be given to humans, and these effects were not observed in other animals." Participants were instructed to use contraception or abstain from sex during trials, which excluded pregnant women. The US FDA will convene a panel of independent experts to scrutinize the pill later this month.

(More COVID-19 stories.)

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