Merck Asks FDA to Approve COVID-19 Treatment Pills

Drugmaker Merck has asked American regulators to allow its promising COVID-19 anti-viral pill, and it expects a decision to be made in a few weeks.

If approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this antiviral pill would be the first pill to treat COVID-19, adding to a new, easy-to-use weapon against the deadly virus pandemic.

The FDA will review the company’s data on the drug’s safety and effectiveness before making a decision.

All FDA-approved COVID-19 drugs so far require an infusion or injection.

Merck earlier this month reported that the anti-viral pill would cut the number of people hospitalized and the deaths of patients with early symptoms of COVID-19 by half. The results of the study on the pill were so good that the independent medical expert who monitored the study recommended discontinuing the study early.

The side effects of the anti-viral pills were similar between the patients who received the pills and those who got the counterfeit pills.

Merck has not publicly detailed the types of problems reported, which will be a key part of the FDA’s review.

American officials are still pushing for a COVID-19 vaccine vaccination as the best way to protect against the virus. But with an estimated 68 million Americans still eligible but unwilling to be vaccinated, effective drugs will be critical to controlling future waves of new outbreaks. [em/jm]

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