The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of Merck’s antiviral pill, molnupiravir, to treat Covid-19.
“Today’s authorization provides an additional treatment option against the COVID-19 virus in the form of a pill that can be taken orally. Molnupiravir is limited to situations where other FDA-authorized treatments for COVID-19 are inaccessible or are not clinically appropriate and will be a useful treatment option for some patients with COVID-19 at high risk of hospitalization or death,” Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni of the US Food and Drug Administration stated.
“As new variants of the virus continue to emerge, it is crucial to expand the country’s arsenal of COVID-19 therapies using emergency use authorization, while continuing to generate additional data on their safety and effectiveness.”
At the end of November, the pill was narrowly recommended by advisers of the FDA with a vote of 13-10. Thus far, data shows the antiviral treatment can cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 30% among high-risk adults.
“The Omicron variant is primarily different from the other types of Covid at the spike protein. Our drug works in completely different part of the virus. So we’re very optimistic that the drug will continue to be effective against Omicron, and we’re studying that right now,” Dr. Eliav Barr of Merck told CNN.
Merck’s antiviral pill is the second of its kind to be approved by the FDA this week. Previously, Pfizer was able to get an antiviral treatment approved as the number of COVID-19 cases rise nationwide.