The pharmaceutical company Merck It asked the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to authorize its antiviral for coronavirus, the first pill that has been shown to be a treatment for COVID-19.
The European Union’s drug regulatory agency said in a statement Tuesday that it has begun evaluating the drug. molnupiravir, manufactured by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, and that the decision could be known within a few weeks.
Last week, the AEM said in an emergency advisory that molnupiravir can be used to treat adults infected with the coronavirus who do not yet need additional oxygen and who are at risk of exacerbating their illness.
The agency said the drug should be given as soon as COVID-19 has been diagnosed and within five days of symptoms. It should be taken twice a day for five days.
Weeks ago, Great Britain was the first country in the world to authorize the drug, for adults diagnosed with COVID-19 and with at least one risk factor for severe disease.
An antiviral pill that reduces symptoms and speeds recovery could prove a game changer by easing pressure on hospitals and helping contain explosive outbreaks along with vaccination drives.
Europe is now the epicenter of the pandemic, and the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that without urgent measures the continent could add another 700 thousand deaths by mid-2022.
US regulators are also studying molnupiravir and are expected to convene a commission of experts in the coming weeks.
Even if you receive authorization, at first there will be few pills available. Merck has said it can produce 10 million this year, but much of it has already been purchased by various governments.
In October, Merck agreed that other pharmaceutical companies could produce the pills and signed a contract with the Medicines Patent Pool, a UN-backed body, to allow companies in dozens of countries to make the pills.