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Merck asks US FDA to authorize promising anti-COVID pill

Shaare Zedek hospital staff wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shaare Zedek hospital staff wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Drugmaker Merck asks US regulators Monday to authorize its pill against COVID-19 in what would add an entirely new and easy-to-use weapon to the world’s arsenal against the pandemic.

If cleared by the Food and Drug Administration — a decision that could come in a matter of weeks — it would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19. All other FDA-backed treatments against the disease require an IV or injection.

An antiviral pill that people could take at home to reduce their symptoms and speed recovery could prove game-changing, easing the crushing caseload on US  hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with weak health care systems. It would also bolster the two-pronged approach to the pandemic: treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.

The FDA will scrutinize company data on the safety and effectiveness of the drug, molnupiravir, before rendering a decision.

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