(CMR) The UK on Thursday became the first country to approve a new antiviral pill designed specifically to treat COVID-19 infections.
The pill, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, was found to halve the likelihood of death or hospitalization from COVID-19 during clinical trials, Business Insider reported.
The UK government had ordered 480,000 courses of the drug, molnupiravir, while the US government had ordered 1.7 million courses, Merck said. The company is now seeking emergency authorization for molnupiravir from the US Food and Drug Administration.
Experts say the drug could prove to be a “game-changer” if it can stop people with COVID-19 from becoming very sick. It also has the advantage of being an oral drug, which means you don't need to be in a hospital or clinic to take it.
The UK's approval of the drug is based on results from a recent trial, which tested the pills on 775 adults with mild to moderate COVID-19. Data showed that none of the participants had died during the first 29 days of the study, compared to eight who received a placebo.
“Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID,” health secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.