A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel voted 13-10 on the benefits of a “closely watched” COVID-19 pill from Merck Nov. 30.
FDA authorization for the drug, molnupiravir, could be a major step in treating COVID-19 and would give doctors the first drug they could prescribe for patients to take on their own. This would ease the burden on hospitals and would help reduce the number of deaths.
The pill is already authorized in the U.K.
This could be the first drug Americans could take at home to treat the virus and the panel specifically backed the drug for adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms who face the greatest risks, including those with conditions like obesity, asthma and old age.
The recommendation came after hours of debate about the drug’s benefits and potential safety issues, including potential birth defects if used during pregnancy.
Experts backing the treatment said it should not be used by pregnant people and they called on the FDA to recommend extra precautions, including pregnancy tests before using the drug.
The FDA is not bound by the panel’s recommendation and is expected to make its own decision before the end of the year.