Speed Reads

'a big step forward'

'A historic day': Britain becomes first country to authorize Merck's COVID-19 pill

In what's being lauded as "a big step forward" in the fight against the ongoining coronavirus pandemic, drug regulators in Britain on Thursday approved drug company Merck's experimental COVID-19 treatment, making the U.K. the first country in the world to authorize the oral antiviral pill, The Washington Post and Reuters report.

British health secretary Sajid Javid decreed Thursday "a historic day" for his country, adding that the drug's approval "will be a game changer for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the groundbreaking treatment," per The New York Times.

Merck's oral COVID treatment is the first of its kind to be authorized, "with the green light coming ahead of potential U.S. regulatory clearance," Reuters writes. U.S. counterparts will meet this month to discuss the stateside authorization of the drug, known as molnupiravir.

Javid also said the U.K.'s National Health Service is working in conjunction with the government to make plans "to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible."

A global clinical trial showed molnupiravir reduced COVID hospitalizations and deaths by almost half in higher-risk adult patients with mild to moderate illness, per the Post. Experts believe the pill's (hopeful) widespread authorization will live up to its "huge potential" to fight COVID — because pills are easier to take, make, and store, they will likely be "particularly useful in lower- to middle-income countries with weaker infrastructure and limited vaccine supplies," the Post explains.

Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies of Geneva, said the authorization is "very significant in terms of giving patients and the public a large confidence that this treatment can be widely used."