UK approves Merck's COVID pill in world first

The United Kingdom has become the first country in the world to approve the much-heralded COVID pill developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck.

The oral anti-viral drug made headlines last month when testing data suggested that it could lower the chance of being hospitalized or dying from COVID by half for the people most at risk from the disease, if it's administered early-on in the illness - within five days of symptoms appearing.

The pill was developed jointly by Merck and a company called Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, and is one of several pills being developed by the pharmaceutical industry to treat the virus.

Oral treatments are seen as a potential major weapon in the fight against the disease.

Last week the company also reached a deal with a United Nations initiative, which will allow the pill to be manufactured as a generic version for developing countries.

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