UK secures deals with Merck, Pfizer for COVID-19 antiviral pills

UK secures deals with Merck, Pfizer for COVID-19 antiviral pills
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The United Kingdom (U.K.) announced Wednesday that it has deals with Pfizer and Merck for each company's COVID-19 antiviral drug, as reported by Reuters

If approval is granted to these pills, they could be used to treat patients as soon as the end of this year, Reuters reported. 

According to Reuters, the U.K. said it has 480,000 courses secured for Merck's drug called molnupiravir. 

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Molnupiravir — developed alongside Merck with Ridgeback — was shown in testing to reduce the risk of hospitalization in adults infected with COVID-19 by 50 percent when administered as a five-day treatment. 

The drug is meant for use in treating those with mild to moderate COVID-19 to prevent severe outcomes. 

Merck filed for emergency use authorization (EUA) of molnupiravir from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this month, and the FDA has a meeting scheduled at the end of November to discuss granting molnupiravir EUA.  

Pfizer also has an antiviral pill in the works. The company began its mid-to-late stage trials in late September. 

Its oral drug contender PF-07321332 has been deemed "safe and well-tolerated" by Pfizer during its studies. The next phase of its trials will include up to 2,660 healthy adults who live in the same household as a person with a confirmed, symptomatic COVID-19 infection. 

The U.K. has secured 250,000 courses of the Pfizer drug, according to Reuters.