In a statement on Monday, Merck said the EU drug regulator had started an expedited licensing process for molnupiravir. If given the green light, it would be the first treatment for COVID-19 that does not need to be administered through needles or intravenous infusions.
Earlier this month, Merck asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to OK molnupiravir, and a decision is expected within weeks.
The company reported this month that the pill cut hospitalizations and deaths by half among patients with early symptoms of COVID-19. The results were so strong that independent medical experts monitoring the trial recommended stopping it early.
An antiviral pill that people could take at home to reduce their symptoms and speed recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing the crushing caseload on hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with weak health care systems.