“Today’s authorization provides an additional treatment option against the covid-19 virus in pill form that can be taken by mouth,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, scientist with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA, for its acronym in English).
The Merck-developed pill, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, is taken within five days of symptoms onset and has been shown to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths by 30% among people from risk.
The Pfizer pill reduces it by 90%.
The FDA insisted in its statement that both Pfizer and Merck pills should be a complement to vaccines, rather than replace them, because they remain the main tool in the fight against coronavirus.
While both treatments are generally safe, clinical trials revealed, Merck’s pill, called molnupiravir, raises more concern.
The FDA does not authorize it for children under 18 years of age because it can affect the growth of bones and cartilage, nor is it recommended in pregnant women due to possible fetal harm. Doctors are the ones who decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks in individual cases.
Eight molnupiravir capsules are taken daily for five days, for a total of 40.
The United States has placed an order for Merck tablets worth 3.1 million dollars (2.7 million euros), and another one from Pfizer, for 10 million (8.8 million euros).
Molnupiravir works by joining the virus genome, causing mutations that prevent viral replication.