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Coronavirus

Merck on path to bring COVID treatment pill to Japan

Japanese pharma sector works on own coronavirus drug candidates

Merck and startup partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for molnupiravir.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The COVID-19 pill developed by Merck raises hope for a first at-home coronavirus treatment that can ease caseloads of overstretched health care systems, and its unit in Japan is already working to gain approval for the drug as early as this year.

Merck and startup partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said Monday that they have applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking emergency use authorization for molnupiravir, an oral antiviral medicine that inhibits the replication of the virus. In a global Phase 3 trial, data from 775 people showing mild to moderate symptoms found that the pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by about 50% compared with those who received a placebo.

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