The European Medicine Agency has “started a rolling review of the oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir” against COVID-19 developed by pharmaceutical company Merck, the agency said on Monday.
If given the green light, it would be the first treatment for coronavirus that does not need to be administered through needles or intravenous infusions.
Earlier this month, Merck asked the US Food and Drug Administration to OK molnupiravir, and a decision is expected within weeks.
The company reported this month that the pill cut hospitalisations and deaths by half among patients with early symptoms of COVID-19. The results were so strong that independent medical experts monitoring the trial recommended stopping it early.
An antiviral pill that people could take at home to reduce their symptoms and speed recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing the crushing caseload on hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with weak health care systems.
It would also bolster a two-pronged approach to the pandemic: treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.