Dubai: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday authorized Merck's Covid pill for high risk adults amid a surge of cases driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant.
"Today's authorization provides an additional treatment option against the COVID-19 virus in the form of a pill that can be taken orally," said FDA scientist Patrizia Cavazzoni.
The decision to grant an emergency use authorization came a day after the agency gave the go-ahead to a similar but more effective treatment from Pfizer Inc.
Merck's drug, molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, was shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by around 30 percent in a clinical trial of high-risk individuals early in the course of the illness.
The drug is meant to be taken twice a day — four pills each time — for five days, making a full treatment course 40 pills.
The drug is used treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults who are at risk for severe disease, and for whom alternative COVID-19 treatments are not accessible or clinically appropriate.
The pill is only permitted to be consumed by those over the age of 18 as there are concerns of it affecting bone and cartilage development in younger patients. People are also recommended to not consume the medicine while they're pregnant or trying to conceive
Pfizer's drug, Paxlovid, was authorized on Wednesday for people aged 12 and older and has shown to be nearly 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at high risk of severe illness, according to trial data.
Both the Merck and Pfizer pills could be promising tools for those who are sick with COVID-19, especially in the face of the fast-spreading omicron variant, which is now dominant in the United States.