The United Kingdom, on Thursday, approved the use of Merck’s antiviral pill to treat patients suffering from mild to moderate COVID-19 infections, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced.
UK’s Health Minister, Sajid Javid, was quoted by the AFP as saying:
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-19.
It was gathered that the pill was licensed for adults from the age of 18, who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have at least one risk factor for developing severe diseases such as obesity or heart disease.
Known as Molnupiravir, the drug is intended to be taken twice a day for five days by people at home with mild to moderate COVID-19.
An antiviral pill that reduces symptoms and speeds recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing caseloads on hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with fragile health systems.
It would also bolster the two-pronged approach to the pandemic- treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.
Molnupiravir is also pending review at regulators in the U.S., the European Union and elsewhere.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last month it would convene a panel of independent experts to scrutinize the pill’s safety and effectiveness in late November.
Meanwhile, initial supplies will be limited as Merck announced that it can only 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, U.K. officials announced they secured 480,000 courses of Molnupiravir and expected thousands of vulnerable Britons to have access to the treatment this winter via a national study.
Doctors said the treatment would be particularly significant for people who do not respond well to vaccination.
Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutic have requested clearance for the drug with regulators around the world to treat adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at risk for severe disease or hospitalization.