UK Approves First Pill To Treat Mild-to-Moderate COVID-19

On Thursday, the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced that it had licensed the oral antiviral molnupiravir, made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, to treat adults diagnosed with mild to moderate Covid-19.

Following the regulators’ announcement, the UK became the first country to approve an anti-Covid pill.

Health Minister Sajid Javid said: “Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for Covid-19.” Approving the pill’s use would “be a game changer” for vulnerable or immunosuppressed patients, he added.

The antiviral drug comes in capsule form and can slow down Covid-19 disease by decreasing the virus’s ability to replicate. It will be also known as Lagevrio.

According to the MHRA, studies concluded that the molnupiravir was safe and effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization and deaths in patients with mild to moderate Covid-19.

Merck and Ridgeback have asked the US Food and Drug Administration for its emergency use authorization. The agency said it would convene its Antimicrobial Drug Advisory Committee later this month to examine molnupiravir’s effectiveness and capacity as a treatment for Covid-19.

The United States government expects to purchase 1.7 million doses if regulators approve the drug.

The companies also said that the European Medicines Agency had started a continuous review of its application.

In October, Merck announced that the capsule had reduced the risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19 by approximately 50%.

“At the interim analysis, molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50%; 7.3% of patients who received molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died through Day 29 following randomization (28/385), compared with 14.1% of placebo treated patients (53,377),” the company said in a news release.

“Through Day 29, no deaths were reported in patients who received molnupiravir, as compared to 8 deaths in patients who received placebo,” it added.

Although the results have not been published and have yet to be reviewed by peers, the findings generated enthusiasm since a potentially easy and accessible treatment for Covid-19 could help reduce fatality figures in the UK and other countries.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, described monulpiravir’s result as the most “impactful” he can recall of an orally available drug to treat a respiratory pathogen and said the pill could be a “real game changer. “

However, experts warn that the pill is not a miracle cure and was not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination.