UK Authorizes First Antiviral Pill to Treat COVID-19

The United Kingdom medicines regulator has approved on Nov. 4 the first pill to treat COVID-19 in adults at risk of severe illness.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced that the oral antiviral pill molnupiravir is safe and effective in significantly reducing the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, following reviews.

“It is also the world’s first approved antiviral for this disease that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously. This is important, because it means it can be administered outside of a hospital setting, before COVID-19 has progressed to a severe stage,” MHRA Chief Executive Dr. June Raine said in a statement.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid described the pill as a “gamechanger” and an “excellent addition to our armory against COVID-19.”

MHRA said that the pill is authorized for use in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 and has at least one risk factor — such as obesity, old age, or heart disease — for developing severe illness.

MHRA recommends taking the pill, which will be branded Lagevrio, as soon as possible following a COVID-19 positive test and within five days of symptoms onset.

The government and the National Health Service will confirm how the pill, developed by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme, will be deployed to patients in due course.

The government noted that the pill is not a substitute for the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to MHRA, the pill prevents the virus from multiplying and keeps virus levels low in the body.

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