The UK has authorised the first pill shown to be effective at treating Covid-19.
It is hoped that Merck’s antiviral treatment, which can be taken at home, will dramatically improve outcomes for patients and ease the strain on the NHS.
The UK is the first country to give the treatment the green light, although it was not immediately clear how quickly the pill would be available, with supply expected to be limited.
The treatment has been licensed for those aged 18 and over who test positive for the virus and have at least one risk factor for developing severe disease.
Initial supplies will be limited. Merck has said it can produce 10 million treatment courses through the end of the year, but much of that supply has already been purchased by governments worldwide.
In October, British officials announced they secured 480,000 courses of molnupiravir, with thousands of vulnerable Brits expected to have access to the treatment this winter via a national study.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID-19.
‘We are working at pace across the government and with the NHS to set out plans to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible.’
Known as molnupiravir, the drug is intended to be taken twice a day for five days by people at home with mild to moderate symptoms.
Regulators are also considering approving the medication in the US, Europe and elsewhere.
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