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An expert panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted Tuesday to authorize emergency use of Merck’s antiviral pill to treat COVID-19, the first in a new class of treatments that May work against several types of coronavirus.

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The advisory committee recommended in a 13-10 vote that the pill, known as molanupiravir, should be authorized to treat patients who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill, including the elderly and Americans. Those who have underlying health conditions.

The oral drug, co-developed by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics, can be taken at home as soon as COVID-19 symptoms arise, and was authorized for use in the UK earlier this month.

While preliminary data suggests the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 50%, new data released Merck showed last week that the drug’s efficacy is reduced by up to 30%.

The treatment showed consistent effects against mu, delta and gamma variants, according to Result from a clinical trial.

Merck believes it will be effective against the new Omicron variant, as it targets Part A virus that does not mutate.

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