UK conditionally authorizes Merck COVID-19 pill

Red pills of new coronavirus antiviral drug
Associated Press

Merck announced on Thursday that the United Kingdom conditionally authorized the use of its antiviral COVID-19 pill, molnupiravir. 

The pharmaceutical company said that molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, had been authorized for use in Britain to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 for adults with positive COVID-19 tests who had “at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.”

The conditional authorization was based on an analysis of phase 3 trials that found that use of the antiviral COVID-19 pill drastically reduced hospitalization in people who were administered molnupiravir.

Merck said that early last month an analysis of phase 3 trials showed that 7.3 percent of patients who received molnupiravir ended up in the hospital within 29 days compared to 14.1 percent of patients who were either hospitalized or died after being given the placebo.

Merck also noted that eight patients who received a placebo died within 29 days; however, no deaths were observed from patients who received molnupiravir.

“The first global authorization of molnupiravir is a major achievement in Merck’s singular legacy of bringing forward breakthrough medicines and vaccines to address the world’s greatest health challenges,” Robert Davis, Merck’s CEO and president, said in a statement on Thursday.

“In pursuit of Merck’s unwavering mission to save and improve lives, we will continue to move with both rigor and urgency to bring molnupiravir to patients around the world as quickly as possible,” he added.

It was unclear from Merck’s announcement when Britain would start receiving shipments of molnupiravir; however, David told CNBC last week that his company was on pace to distribute millions of doses of the antiviral COVID-19 treatment.

“Right now we’re on pace to have 10 million doses, or 10 million courses, ready before the end of this year and more than double that next year,” Davis said at the time

“We’re working with governments, and we’re well positioned to get this thing moving very quickly once we have it approved,” he added.

Tags COVID-19 Medicine Merck molnupiravir Ridgeback Biotherapeutics

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