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The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized Merck’s antiviral drug, molnupiravir, to treat Covid-19.

This is the second Covid-19 antiviral pill allowed for sick people to take at home, before they become so sick that they need to be hospitalized. Merck has an agreement with the US government for the company to supply 3.1 million courses of molnupiravir under this authorization.

An FDA press release said the pill is authorized “for the treatment of mild to moderate coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in adults who have tested positive for the direct SARS-CoV-2 virus.” and those at risk of developing severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and FDA-approved COVID-19 treatment options that are inaccessible or clinically inappropriate .”

Molnupiravir was recommended by FDA advisors in an October 13 vote in late November after data showed it reduced the risk of hospitalization or death in high-risk adults by 30%. This is lower than an earlier analysis that suggested it could be around 50%.

Dr. Eliav Barr, Merck’s senior vice president of global health, told CNN this month that he’s optimistic that the treatment will work with the Omicron variant.

“The Omicron variant is mainly different from other Covids in the mutant protein. Our drug works on a completely different part of the virus. So we are very optimistic that this drug will continue to be effective. against Omicron and we’re working on that right now.”

Pfizer tablets: On Wednesday, FDA authorized Pfizer antivirals, Paxlovid, to treat Covid-19, the first antiviral Covid-19 pill authorized in the US so that sick people can take it at home, before they get sick enough to need to be hospitalized. High-risk individuals 12 years of age and older who weigh at least 88 pounds and test positive for SARS-CoV-2 are eligible for this treatment and will need to be prescribed by a doctor.

The pill “should be started as soon as possible after a Covid-19 diagnosis and within five days of symptom onset,” according to one FDA statement.

Read more about these treatments:

FDA approves second antiviral pill to treat Covid-19

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