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UK grants authorization to first pill said to treat COVID

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)

Britain grants conditional authorization to the only pill shown to successfully treat COVID-19 so far. It is the first country to okay the treatment from drugmaker Merck, although it wasn’t immediately clear how quickly the pill will be available.

The pill is licensed for adults 18 and older who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have at least one risk factor for developing severe disease, such as obesity or heart disease. Patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 would take four pills of the drug, known molnupiravir, twice a day for five days.

Molnupiravir is also pending review with regulators in the US, the European Union and elsewhere. The US Food and Drug Administration announced last month it would convene a panel of independent experts to scrutinize the pill’s safety and effectiveness in late November.

Initial supplies will be limited. Merck has said it can produce 10 million treatment courses through the end of the year, but much of that supply has already been purchased by governments worldwide.

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