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US authorizes Merck’s at-home antiviral COVID-19 pill

The US FDA authorized the oral drug for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Covid-19 in adults who are at risk for severe disease, and for whom alternative Covid-19 treatments are not accessible or clinically appropriate.


Updated: December 23, 2021 8:33:40 pm
This undated image provided by Merck & Co. shows their new antiviral medication against COVID-19. Britain has granted a conditional authorization to Merck's coronavirus antiviral, the first pill shown to successfully treat COVID-19. It is the first country to OK the treatment, although it was not immediately clear how quickly the pill would be available. (AP)

The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized Merck & Co’s antiviral pill for Covid-19, after giving the go-ahead to a similar treatment from Pfizer Inc a day earlier.

Merck’s drug, molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, was shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by around 30% in a clinical trial of high-risk individuals early in the course of the illness.

The agency authorized the oral drug for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults who are at risk for severe disease, and for whom alternative COVID-19 treatments are not accessible or clinically appropriate.

The US government has a contract to buy as many as 5 million courses of the drug for $700 per course.

The drug is not authorized for use in patients younger than 18 because molnupiravir may affect bone and cartilage growth, the FDA said in a statement.

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