Japan Approves Merck's COVID-19 Pill

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Tokyo, Dec. 24 (Jiji Press)--Japanese health minister Shigeyuki Goto on Friday approved Merck & Co.'s COVID-19 pill molnupiravir for use in the country, making it the first oral treatment for coronavirus patients with mild symptoms in Japan.

The at-home antiviral pill is expected to ease burdens on patients and hospitals. It is effective against the omicron variant, health ministry officials said.

The Japanese government plans to distribute doses of the pill for 200,000 people nationwide from Sunday, making them available for use starting as early as Monday.

Molnupiravir will "play a key role in enabling people to live their lives with a sense of security," Goto said. "I believe it will significantly advance our country's coronavirus response."

Medical workers are welcoming molnupiravir's approval, as administering the pill is vastly less of a burden than using existing remedies such as the intravenous antibody cocktail Ronapreve, which requires doctors to monitor patients.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press