The U.K. approves Merck’s COVID-19 antiviral pill, calling it a world first


Merck’s antiviral pill that fights COVID-19 in adults with the disease won its first authorization in the world Thursday, as the U.K.’s medical regulator announced that the drug is “safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death” in mild to moderate cases.

The drug is a “game changer,” British Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said. Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics developed the oral antiviral.

“Today is a historic day for our country, as the U.K. is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID-19,” Javid said.

The U.K.’s authorization is based on clinical studies that showed the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by about 50% for at-risk adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 cases.

The drug, which is called molnupiravir and will be sold under the name Lagevrio in the U.K., helps people cope with COVID-19 by interfering with the virus’s ability to replicate itself.

“This prevents it from multiplying, keeping virus levels low in the body and therefore reducing the severity of the disease,” the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, said.



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