Thursday 4 November 2021 8:38 PM UTC
LONDON Nov 4: Britain on Thursday became the first country in the world to approve a potentially game-changing COVID-19 antiviral pill jointly developed by U.S.-based Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, in a boost to the fight against the pandemic.
Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recommended the drug, molnupiravir, be used as soon as possible following a positive COVID-19 test and within five days of the onset of symptoms, citing clinical data.
This is the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 to get approved, with the green light coming ahead of potential U.S. regulatory clearance. U.S. advisers will meet this month to vote on whether molnupiravir should be authorized.
Treatments to tackle the pandemic, which has killed more than 5.2 million people worldwide, have so far focused mainly on vaccines. Other options, including Gilead’s infused antiviral remdesivir and generic steroid dexamethasone, are generally only given after a patient has been hospitalised.
Merck’s Molnupiravir has been closely watched since data last month showed it could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of developing severe COVID-19 when given early in the illness.
The drug, to be branded Lagevrio in Britain, is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus that causes COVID-19 and is taken twice a day for five days.
The British government and the country’s National Health Service (NHS) will confirm how the treatment will be deployed to patients in “due course”.
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