Britain on Thursday approved the use of Merck’s antiviral pill to treat patients suffering from mild to moderate COVID-19, as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced.
Health minister Sajid Javid remarked, ‘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. This will be a game-changer for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the ground-breaking treatment’.
The antiviral, named molnupiravir, works by decreasing the ability of a virus to replicate, thereby slowing down the disease.
The MHRA assured that its trials had concluded it was ‘safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at increased risk of developing severe disease’.
Based on the trial data, the drug is most effective when taken in the early stages of infection. The MHRA recommends that the pill be taken within five days of the start of symptoms.
The pill has also been authorised for use in people who have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, such as obesity, old age, diabetes, and heart diseases.
On October 20, Britain even announced that it had ordered 480,000 doses of molnupiravir from US pharma giant Merck. In the meantime, drug regulators in the US and the EU have already begun an evaluation of the drug.
Merck has also signed agreements with other governments, like the US, which has agreed to buy 1.7 million doses if it is approved by regulators.