Merck seeks U.S. authorization for COVID-19 tablet

A pill to treat Covid-19 is one step closer to becoming reality.

Merck said on Monday it applied for emergency use authorization in the U.S. for its tablet to treat mild-to-moderate cases of coronavirus, putting it on course to become the first oral antiviral medication for the disease.

An authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration be a game changer for how COVID-19 is treated, as the pill can be taken at home.

The treatment, molnupiravir, cut the rate of hospitalization and death by 50% in a trial of mild-to-moderately ill patients who had at least one risk factor for the disease, according to data released earlier this month.

News of the drug's efficacy heavily dented the shares of COVID-19 vaccine makers.

The drugmaker has a U.S. government contract to supply 1.7 million courses at a price of $700 per course. Merck expects to produce 10 million courses of the treatment by the end of 2021.

Existing treatments like remdesivir are generally given in hospitals, and monoclonal antibody drugs, which are typically infused as well, have so far seen only limited use due to the difficulty in administering them. A decision from the FDA whether to authorize the pill could be weeks away.

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