Advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration voted 13-10 Tuesday to recommend emergency use authorization of a pill made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to help treat Covid-19.
Members of the FDA’s Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee were split in their vote to recommend molnupiravir, which can reduce the risk someone will progress to severe disease or death by about 30%.
If authorization is granted, the drug would be the first oral antiviral treatment to fight Covid-19. It comes in capsule form.
The pills must be taken within five days of the start of symptoms to do much good, and people must take pills twice a day for five days. Members of the committee were worried about risks to pregnant women.
Molnupiravir is not the only antiviral scientists are developing against Covid-19. Pfizer applied for authorization of its antiviral pill this month. The FDA has not yet set a date for its advisory panel to review that drug.
The FDA will now consider the committee’s recommendation. It doesn’t have to follow the committee’s advice, but often does.
The US federal government has contracted to buy 3.1 million courses of molnupiravir for $2.2 billion, which works out to about $700 per course of treatment.
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