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EU watchdog could approve Merck Covid pill ‘within weeks’

This undated image provided by Merck shows its new antiviral medication against COVID-19. (Merck via AP)
This undated image provided by Merck shows its new antiviral medication against COVID-19. (Merck via AP)

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) says it may decide “within weeks” whether to approve Merck’s anti-Covid pill, Lagevrio, which could offer patients an easy at-home treatment for the disease.

“EMA will assess the benefits and risks of Lagevrio under a reduced timeline and could issue an opinion within weeks if the data submitted are sufficiently robust and complete,” the body says in a statement.

On Friday, the EMA had issued advice allowing individual EU countries to decide for themselves on using Lagevrio — also known as molnupiravir — in emergency situations, “in light of rising rates of infection and deaths” from COVID-19.

It is also weighing a similar authorization for a pill from Pfizer.

The two drugs from the US pharma giants represent a potentially groundbreaking step in the fight against coronavirus, as studies show they cut the risk of hospitalization and death in high-risk patients.

The watchdog says it is able to move so quickly as it “has already reviewed a substantial portion of the data on the medicine during a rolling review, including from laboratory and animal studies, production data and “data on efficacy and safety.”

EMA’s human medicines committee also “assessed data from completed and ongoing clinical studies.”

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