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South Korea approves Pfizer’s coronavirus pill for emergency use.

todayDecember 27, 2021

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South Korea has given emergency-use approval of Pfizer’s oral treatment for Covid-19, the first pill approved in the nation to treat symptoms of the coronavirus.

Kim Gang-lip, the minister of food and drug safety, said at a news conference on Monday that the treatment, Paxlovid, would “diversify the types of treatment” for the virus and is expected to “prevent serious deterioration of health in patients.”

Supplies of the medication are expected to arrive in the country by mid-January.

The ministry’s announcement came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared Pfizer’s pill for high-risk patients, which it said last week would be authorized for those age 12 and older. The European Medicines Agency, which regulates drugs in the European Union, has also said that the pill can be used in high-risk adults.

Paxlovid appears to be substantially more effective than a similar antiviral pill from Merck, known as molnupiravir, which was narrowly recommended by the F.D.A.’s advisers for emergency use.

Pfizer expects to manufacture 120 million Paxlovid treatments next year. The company has indicated that the pill would be effective against the Omicron variant.

South Korea’s daily cases reached a record of nearly 8,000 before falling to 4,207 new cases on Monday, the lowest in nearly three weeks. The drop occurred soon after the government reinstated social-distancing rules and limited business hours.

The country has fully vaccinated 82 percent of its population, according to the Our World in Data Project at the University of Oxford.

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