Merck asks EU regulator to authorize pill that treats COVID

Pharmaceutical company Merck has asked the European Medicines Agency to authorize its COVID-19 antiviral treatment

AMSTERDAM -- The pharmaceutical company Merck says it has asked the European Medicines Agency to authorize its COVID-19 antiviral treatment, the first pill that has been shown to treat the disease.

In a statement on Monday, Merck said the EU drug regulator had started an expedited licensing process for molnupiravir. If given the green light, it would be the first treatment for COVID-19 that does not need to be administered through needles or intravenous infusions.

Earlier this month, Merck asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to OK molnupiravir, and a decision is expected within weeks.

The company reported this month that the pill cut hospitalizations and deaths by half among patients with early symptoms of COVID-19. The results were so strong that independent medical experts monitoring the trial recommended stopping it early.

It would also bolster a two-pronged approach to the pandemic: treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.