Merck, one of America's largest pharmaceutical companies, put in an emergency use authorization request for a pill that may be the first to treat COVID-19.

On Friday, the pharmaceutical company released a statement declaring that it was preparing to apply for emergency use of its molnupiravir tablet with the Food and Drug Administration. If approved by the FDA, the tablet would be the first oral antiviral medicine to be used to treat the coronavirus, Reuters reported.

Merck partnered with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to conduct a study of 775 patients deemed to be more at-risk for mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19, according to the company's statement. Those who were given molnupiravir as a treatment for COVID-19 symptoms showed a 50% reduced risk of hospitalization as opposed to the patients who were given a placebo.


Patients in the study were required to take molnupiravir twice a day for five days. The study showed that 7.3% of patients who received the tablet were hospitalized or died through day 29, compared to 14.1% of those given a placebo.

"With the virus continuing to circulate widely, and because therapeutic options currently available are infused and/or require access to a healthcare facility, antiviral treatments that can be taken at home to keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital are critically needed," said Ridgeback Biotherapeutics CEO Wendy Holman.

Holman explained that if molnupiravir is authorized, it could make a "profound impact" in helping to curb the pandemic, saying, "Our partnership with Merck is critical to ensuring rapid global access if this medicine is approved."


Within the past few months, the Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were all granted emergency use authorization to mitigate the pandemic. In late August, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, while Moderna, which applied for full approval of its vaccine in June, is expecting to be given the green light sometime this fall.

The FDA authorized the use of a third dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in September, and fellow pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson released a statement on Oct. 5 that it was seeking approval for its single-shot COVID-19 booster.

Moderna announced on Sept. 9 that it was currently in the process of developing a booster shot that would simultaneously protect against COVID-19 and influenza.

As of Oct. 6, the United States had 43,997,504 coronavirus cases. The 7-day average for daily new cases dropped by 11.6%, from 107,953 to 95,448, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.