Merck to seek emergency authorization for COVID-19 pill that cuts risks in half

Pharmaceutical company Merck on Friday said it will seek an emergency authorization for its oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment after the medicine was shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by 50 percent during clinical trials.

The drug was also proven to be consistently effective against all strains of COVID-19, including the highly contagious delta variant.

By the numbers: An analysis of phase three trials found that 7.3 percent of patients treated with Merck’s drug, called molnupiravir, were hospitalized within 29 days, according to the company’s Friday statement.

Of the study participants who received a placebo, 14.1 percent were hospitalized or died by the last day of the trial.

No deaths were reported in patients who were given molnupiravir during the duration of the trial, while eight deaths were reported in those who were treated with placebos.

Significance: A pill to effectively treat COVID-19 has long been a major goal, and the new results quickly won praise from experts.

The company said it plans to submit an application for emergency use authorization to the FDA as soon as possible based on the trial’s results. If granted the authorization, molnupiravir could be the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19.