EU won't OK COVID-19 pill before Xmas: source

The EU drug regulator will not decide whether to approve Merck's Covid pill until after Christmas.

That's according to a Reuters source.

The news comes as the continent scrambles to boost its arsenal of drugs to fight the fast spreading Omicron variant.

The European Medicines Agency will, however, rule in the coming days on whether to give Gilead's antiviral drug Remdesivir full marketing approval.

If the Merck ruling does come in the new year, it would be later than expected. In November, the agency said it expected to complete its review by the end of 2021.

That month, the regulator issued guidance to member states on using the pill even before final EU-wide approval.

It advised it should be given within five days of first symptoms to treat adults who do not need oxygen support and are at risk of their disease worsening.

That was before the U.S. drugmaker released data suggesting the drug was significantly less effective than previously thought, reducing hospitalisations and deaths in its clinical trial of high-risk individuals by only around 30%.

Alongside vaccines, the at-home antiviral treatments are considered a critical weapon for fighting the virus nearly two years into the health crisis.

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