0631 GMT October 17, 2021
If it gets authorization, molnupiravir, which is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus, would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19, Reuters reported.
Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said they plan to seek U.S. emergency use authorization for the pill as soon as possible and to make regulatory applications worldwide.
"An oral antiviral that can impact hospitalization risk to such a degree would be game-changing," said Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Current treatment options include Gilead Sciences Inc's infused antiviral remdesivir and generic steroid dexamethasone, both of which are generally only given once a patient has already been hospitalized.
"This is going to change the dialogue around how to manage COVID-19," Merck Chief Executive Robert Davis told Reuters.
Existing treatments are "cumbersome and logistically challenging to administer. A simple oral pill would be the opposite of that," Adalja added.