FDA authorizes Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill

The FDA on Dec. 23 granted emergency use authorization for Merck's COVID-19 pill molnupiravir, making it the second at-home antiviral treatment available for patients. 

The drug was authorized to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults who are at high risk of developing severe illness when alternative treatment options are not "not accessible or clinically appropriate," Merck said. 

The authorization is more limited than for Pfizer's antiviral Paxlovid, which the FDA greenlit Dec. 22. Research shows Merck's pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 30 percent, while Pfizer's lowered this risk by 88 percent, according to The New York Times.

The treatment consists of 40 pills taken over five days and should be available within the next few weeks.

 

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