US pharmaceutical company Merck says it has developed a coronavirus drug that can be taken orally. It says the drug may cut the risk of serious illness or death in some patients by as much as 50 percent.
The drug is called molnupiravir. Merck officials say it is for people who are already infected and showing symptoms. They say it is effective against all variants, including the Delta mutation.
Researchers tested the drug on nearly 760 patients with mild to moderate symptoms. All of them had at least one risk factor that made them more susceptible to serious illness.
Researchers found that just 7 percent of those who took the pill required hospitalization, and all of them survived.
But 14 percent of patients who took a placebo were hospitalized or died.
Merck CEO Rob Davis said molnupiravir is important because it is the first oral antiviral that will be available to combat COVID-19. He said if you're someone who is unfortunate enough to get the news that you've contracted COVID-19, this is a pill you can take at home.
Company officials say they will ask regulators to authorize the drug for emergency use in the US as soon as possible. Rival drugmakers Pfizer and Roche Holding are racing to develop their own oral treatments.