Drugmaker Merck said Friday that its experimental COVID-19 pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half in people recently infected with the coronavirus and that it would soon ask health officials in the U.S. and around the world to authorize its use.

If cleared, the drug would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19, a potentially major step forward in global efforts to control the pandemic. All COVID-19 therapies now authorized in the U.S. require an IV or injection.

A pill that could be taken at home, by contrast, could keep many patients out of the hospital, easing the workload on strained health care professionals. It could also help curb outbreaks in lower-income countries that don’t have access to the more expensive infusion therapies.

Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said early results showed patients who received the drug, called molnupiravir, within five days of COVID-19 symptoms had about half the rate of hospitalization and death as patients who received a dummy pill. The study tracked 775 adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who were considered higher risk for severe disease due to health problems such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease. The results have not been peer reviewed by outside experts, the usual procedure for vetting new medical research.... Read More: Associated Press