An FDA panel supports Merck COVID drug in mixed vote

 Merk drug, mulnuperavir, approved

A panel of experts advising the Food and Drug Administration voted narrowly in favor of emergency use authorization of an antiviral pill from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to treat COVID-19.

The vote was 13 for and 10 against authorization. The FDA isn't obligated to follow the recommendations of its advisers but typically does.

If the agency authorizes use of the drug, called molnupiravir, it would be the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 that could be taken at home. A second oral medicine from Pfizer, called Paxlovid, is also being considered for authorization by the FDA.

The Merck drug is taken twice a day for five days and works by causing a cascade of disabling mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus during replication. The drug is intended for use by people with mild to moderate illness and who are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19. It is supposed to be taken within five days of symptoms.