Merck’s molnupiravir becomes the first approved pill for COVID-19 treatment

The United Kingdom’s regulator is the first to approve the oral treatment for symptomatic COVID-19.

Earlier today, the American pharmaceutical company Merck received approval from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for molnupiravir - the world’s first pill approved to treat symptomatic COVID-19. Molnupiravir was approved for the use in people with mild to moderate COVID-19, with no less than one risk factor that could lead to the development of a severe illness, like heart disease, old age, heart disease and diabetes. Sajid Javid, British Health Secretary stated, “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." Merck has already submitted their application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and plans to apply to other regulators in the world.

The MHRA noted that the pill will be most effective when administered during the early stages of COVID-19. Use is recommended as soon as a person tests positive for the virus, and within five days from the commencement of symptoms. In a statement Javid added that the drug is a "gamechanger" for the immunosuppressed and vulnerable. The news comes just days after the world surpassed five million COVID-19 deaths. About 480,000 doses have been ordered by the UK and 1.7 million doses have been ordered by the US pending FDA approval. Merck is intending on developing 10 million doses of molnupiravir before the end of 2021 and plans to develop an additional 20 million in 2022. Molnupiravir is currently being studied to test its efficacy in preventing COVID-19.