London (UK) | Jagran News Desk: The United Kingdom (UK) on Thursday became the first country to approve COVID-19 antiviral pill 'molnupiravir' jointly developed by United States-based Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. In a statement, the UK said that 'molnupiravir' will be administered in people infected with mild to moderate COVID-19 or those who are at risk of developing severe illnesses like obesity, older age diabetes and heart disease.

"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," UK Health Minister Sajid Javid was quoted as saying by AFP. "This will be a game-changer for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the ground-breaking treatment".

Molnupiravir, a game-changer against COVID-19 pandemic

Molnupiravir, which will also be known as 'Lagevrio', was given a nod in the UK after Merck said that its animal testing has shown that the antiviral pill is "safe". However, the data has not been made public yet.

Molnupiravir, as per the pharmaceutical firm, will be taken twice a day for five days following a positive COVID-19 test. It said that the antiviral pill "is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19".

"Based on the clinical trial data, Lagevrio is most effective when taken during the early stages of infection and so the MHRA recommends its use as soon as possible following a positive Covid-19 test and within five days of symptoms onset," said drugs regulator of the UK.

Meanwhile, Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have claimed that its antiviral pill can reduce the "risk of hospitalisation or death across all key subgroups". They also said that it is expected to produce 10 million courses of treatment by the end of this year.

"With the virus continuing to circulate widely, and because therapeutic options currently available are infused and/or require access to a healthcare facility, antiviral treatments that can be taken at home to keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital are critically needed," Ridgeback Biotherapeutics chief executive officer (CEO) Wendy Holman said in a statement.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma