U.K. to Roll Out COVID-19 Antiviral Drug Trial This Month

LONDON (Reuters) -
merck pill covid
Merck’snew antiviral medication. (Merck & Co. via AP)

Britain will start to roll out Merck’s molnupiravir COVID-19 antiviral pill through a drug trial later this month, Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at the U.K. Health Security Agency said on Sunday.

Last week Britain became the first country in the world to approve the potentially game-changing COVID-19 antiviral pill, jointly developed by U.S.-based Merck & Co. Inc. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

The government said in October it had secured 480,000 courses of the Merck drug, as well as 250,000 courses of an antiviral pill developed by Pfizer Inc.

Asked about the molnupiravir approval, Hopkins told the BBC: “That is great news and it will start to be rolled out through a drug trial in the end of this month/the beginning of December.”

Hopkins said all the trials so far had been done with the unvaccinated, so this would help understand how it will work in the wider vaccinated population.

“The new Pfizer drug is probably not going to be licensed until the new year some time,” she added. “It is still likely to be a couple of months away.”