The UK became the first country in the world to approve a COVID-19 treatment pill that can be taken at home when Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the treatment on Thursday.
The pill, taken orally, is called molnupiravir, and was developed by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme.
British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID-19.
"This will be a gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the ground-breaking treatment.”
"We are working at pace across the government and with the NHS to set out plans to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible,” he added.
The MHRA said in a statement that molnupiravir, also known as Lagevrio, "is safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at increased risk of developing severe disease.”
The statement continued: "Based on the clinical trial data, Lagevrio is most effective when taken during the early stages of the infection and so the MHRA recommends its use as soon as possible following a positive COVID-19 test and within five days of symptoms onset.
"Molnupiravir has been authorised for use in people who have mild to moderate COVID-19 and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness. Such risk factors include obesity, older age (>60 years), diabetes mellitus, or heart disease," it added.