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Merck requests emergency use authorization for experimental pill to treat covid-19

An experimental covis-19 treatment pill called molnupiravir being developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. (Merck & Co Inc/Via Reuters)
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Pharmaceutical giant Merck has asked the Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency use authorization to its experimental covid-19 antiviral treatment — an oral medication that could be promising in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The treatment, a pill named molnupiravir that cut hospitalizations and deaths by about half in early trials, could be an especially important tool in poor countries, where vaccine supply is low.

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Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said Monday in a news release that, in addition to their FDA application, they plan to apply for emergency use or marketing authorization in other countries “in the coming months.” Ahead of a decision by U.S. regulators, the companies have already begun producing the pill, and have agreed to sell courses of the treatment to the United States and other countries if they get the green light.

Here’s what to know

Coronavirus: What you need to know

The latest: The CDC has loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread.

Variants: BA.5 is the most recent omicron subvariant, and it’s quickly become the dominant strain in the U.S. Here’s what to know about it, and why vaccines may only offer limited protection.

Vaccines: Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 12 and older get an updated coronavirus booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant circulating now. You’re eligible for the shot if it has been at least two months since your initial vaccine or your last booster. An initial vaccine series for children under 5, meanwhile, became available this summer. Here’s what to know about how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections and booster history.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. The omicron variant is behind much of the recent spread.

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