Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said Monday that an experimental pill showing signs of reducing the need for hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 is likely to be available in Australia early next year.
Pharmaceutical company Merck said last week the antiviral drug molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by half.
The New Jersey-based company said it would soon ask health officials in the US and around the world to allow widespread use of the pill.
Australia has invited Merck to apply for the drug to be approved by Australia’s drug regulatory agency, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Hunt said.
If approved, the pill could be rolled out in Australia within the first three months of 2022, he added. “Oral pills are definitely an easier way to help people,” Hunt said.
All COVID-19 treatments now permitted in the US require an IV or injection.
Australia is expected this week to hit its vaccination target to end the lockdown. About 80 percent of the country’s population aged 16 and over have received a second shot of the vaccine. The government said Monday that 79.61 percent of the target age group had been fully vaccinated. [ab/uh]