U.K. Drug Regulator Is First to Approve Merck’s Covid-19 Pill

by BLOOMBERG / pic source: MERCK & CO

BRITAIN became the first country to approve Merck & Co’s Covid-19 antiviral pill, with the nation’s drug regulator describing the treatment as safe and effective.

The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency authorized the drug, molnupiravir, for use in people with mild to moderate Covid and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, the regulator said in a statement Thursday.

Merck shares rose 2% in premarket U.S. trading.

Boris Johnson’s government plans to focus on antiviral treatments at the same time as rolling out boosters to bolster immunity levels as winter approaches. The U.K. has already announced deals to secure two new Covid treatments: 480,000 courses of Merck’s pill and 250,000 courses of Pfizer Inc.’s PF 07321332/ritonavir.

Coronavirus infections in England reached their highest level yet in October, based on a large study published Thursday. While hospitalizations and deaths remained low, the React-1 study led by Imperial College London recorded the highest prevalence of cases since the research began in May 2020. Covid infections among study participants increased to 1.72%, or one in 58 people, more than double the level in the previous month’s report.

Based on the clinical trial data, Merck’s pill is most effective when taken during the early stages of infection, the regulator said.