Merck’s Covid-19 pill cleared by US regulators

Treatment is second to be approved in as many days

The US on Thursday authorised Merck's antiviral pill for Covid-19 for certain high-risk adult patients, a day after giving a broader go-ahead to a similar but more effective treatment from Pfizer.

The US Food and Drug Administration said Merck’s drug could be used when other authorised treatments are not accessible or clinically appropriate. The drug, molnupiravir, was developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and shown to reduce hospitalisations and deaths by around 30 per cent in a clinical trial of high-risk individuals early in the course of the illness.

The authorisation allows use of the drug for mild-to-moderate Covid-19 and along with the Pfizer pill, could be an important tool against the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Merck plans to ship hundreds of thousands of treatment courses in coming days and 1 million over the next few weeks. Pfizer plans to ship about 250,000 courses in the next month, with its Ringaskiddy plant in Cork playing a key role in the manufacturing process. – Reuters