South Korea approves second COVID-19 pill Lagevrio

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The drug, jointly developed by US pharmaceutical company MSD and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is the second anti-coronavirus pill to be approved by health authorities in the country, following the approval of Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid in December.

Amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the ministry said the approval decision was made based on the need to present an alternative treatment for high-risk patients who were unable to take the existing drug due to certain kidney or liver disorders.

According to the ministry, pregnant women and patients under the age of 18 will be exempted from the list of people who can take the newly approved pill. The ministry said some of Lagevrio’s side effects include dizziness, diarrhea and nausea.

The government on Monday announced a plan to roll out a batch of Lagevrio that will include enough supplies for 100,000 COVID-19 patients this week.

Lagevrio, also known as molnupiravir, has received either conditional or emergency use approval in 15 countries including the US and UK. Data from the phase 3 clinical trial of the drug showed that when the drug is administered within five days of symptom onset, the hospitalization rate for people with mild to moderate symptoms can be halved.

With hundreds of thousands of daily confirmed cases reported over the past 10 days, the country’s cumulative case count surpassed 10 million on Tuesday.

By Kan Hyeong-woo

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