A medical regulatory body in the UK has approved the experimental drug Molnupiravir from U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck to treat COVID-19.

This approval makes it the first authorisation from a public health body for medication outside vaccines for COVID-19.

Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID-19,” said Britain’s health secretary, Sajid Javid.

We will continue to move with both rigour and urgency to bring Molnupiravir to patients around the world as quickly as possible,” Merck President Robert M. Davis said in a statement.

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A clinical trial carried out worldwide resulted in reduced hospitalisations and deaths by nearly half among adult patients diagnosed with mild to moderate COVID-19.

The first dose given to a volunteer in the trial was administered in the United Kingdom.

The pill has been licensed for adults aged 18 and above who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have at least one risk factor for developing severe disease.

The drug is intended to be taken twice a day for five days by people at home with mild to moderate COVID-19.

The pharmaceutical company has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorisation and has announced that it is working towards submitting applications to other regulatory agencies across the world.

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The U.S. government has already made an advance purchase of 1.7 million courses of Molnupiravir at the cost of roughly $1.2 billion.

Other countries such as Australia, Singapore and South Korea have also made purchase agreements with the pharmaceutical company.

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