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From Pfizer to Shionogi, drugmakers race for coronavirus pills

Oral treatments crucial to beating pandemic enter late-stage trials

Merck plans to apply for emergency use authorization of its molnupiravir antiviral pill in the U.S. by the end of 2021. (Photo courtesy of Merck)   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Clinical trials for a COVID-19 pill have kicked off across the world, as pharmaceutical companies work on a simpler and more affordable way to treat patients and help finally bring the pandemic under control.

U.S.-based Merck is working with startup Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an oral antiviral treatment called molnupiravir. A final Phase 3 trial for the drug is currently being conducted worldwide, including in Japan, and its findings could become available as early as October.

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