Japan approves first domestic oral COVID-19 drug

Japan has approved use of a pill that doctors who treat COVID-19 have been waiting for and can prescribe to anyone no matter how mild their symptoms.

Japanese Health Minister Kato Katsunobu told reporters on Tuesday evening that experts approved emergency authorization of Shionogi's oral drug Xocova. He added that he had just approved it in his capacity as minister of health, labor and welfare.

The ministry's expert panel had looked at clinical data and found evidence that the domestically developed pill is effective against fever and other COVID symptoms.

Two other oral medications are currently approved for mild cases. Both were developed in the US and are intended only for patients at high risk of developing severe symptoms.

Doctors say it's difficult to predict who COVID will hit hard, and called for a drug they could prescribe more broadly. Health officials plan to distribute Xocova nationwide, with hospitals getting enough doses for one million patients.

Japan is now facing an 8th COVID wave. More than 120,000 infections were reported nationwide on Tuesday, for the 18th straight day of week-on-week increase. Three northern prefectures confirmed record-high case counts.