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U.K. Becomes First Country To Approve Merck Antiviral Medication To Treat COVID-19

UK gambles on Merck’s ‘wonderdrug’ molnupiravir to treat coronavirus

Merck’s ‘molnupiravir’ antiviral drug is the first medication that successfully treats COVID-19. Britain is the first country in the world to have granted authorization to the drug, however it is not clear as yet how quickly and efficiently the drug will be available.

The pill is only licensed to those who test positive for the virus, who are at greater risk of developing serious illness whilst infected. The dosage is intended to be administered twice a day for 5 days, for people who have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.

The benefits of this pill being given to patients at home include less pressure on hospitals, as well as helping to reduce greater outbreaks of the disease in developing countries with poorer healthcare systems. Additionally, it would also guarantee effective measures in dealing with the pandemic by two-fold: treatment by the use of medication, and prevention through the administration of vaccinations. This will eventually help to reduce cases over time.

What currently works to treat COVID-19?

Currently, Molnupiravir is the only effective proven treatment COVID-19. However, it is awaiting review with regulators in Europe, the United States, and the rest of the world. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States last month declared that it will “convene a panel of independent experts to scrutinize the pill’s safety and effectiveness in late November”.

According to Merck, a staggering 10 million supplies will be produced by the end of the year, however, a high amount of that supply has already been purchased by governments globally.

In October 2021, the U.K. officials declared that they managed to obtain 480,000 courses of molnupiravir. This is a magnificent start in the race to have thousands of people having access to the drug this winter.

According to Britain’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, “Today is a historic day for our country, as the U.K. is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID-19. We are working at pace across the government and with the NHS to set out plans to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible”. This was a statement mentioned in reference to the U.K.’s NHS. In addition, doctors agreed that the drug would be especially effective for those who do not respond particularly well to vaccination.

So far, the drug has been shown to reduce hospitalizations by 50% in patients who showed early symptoms of COVID-19 through preliminary tests in October. However, these results have not yet been evaluated by scientists.

The longer-term side effects of molnupiravir are yet to be fully discovered. The drug targets the enzyme in coronavirus responsible for reproduction and replication. It creates inaccuracies in the genetic code, which ultimately reduces the capacity of the virus to reproduce and take over human cells. However, despite this breakthrough, the characteristics of the drug has brought up several questions from experts who are concerned that it could cause mutations, which may lead to birth defects or tumors.

In clinical trials, all men and women involved were instructed to use contraception or abstain from sex. However, pregnant women were excluded from the study. According to Merck, the drug remains safe to use if taken according to the stated dose.

Initially, molnupiravir was studied as a potential treatment for the flu virus, funded by the U.S. government. Last year, the drug was researched by scientists, who decided to repurpose the drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19. It was then licensed to Ridgeback and its partner, Merck.

A week ago, Merck had allowed drug makers in poorer countries to make its COVID-19 drug in an attempt to help distribute the pill to millions of people.

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