S. Korea approves MSD’s oral COVID-19 pill for at-risk patients

March 23, 2022

South Korea’s drug safety agency on Wednesday granted an emergency authorization of multinational pharmaceutical company MSD’s oral drug to treat COVID-19, making it the second such pill to be used in the country.

Lagevrio is the antiviral pill for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 patients at increased risk of hospitalization or death, according to MSD and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The ministry convened a panel of experts from both inside and outside to review the safety and efficacy of Lagevrio, and concluded that the oral pill is needed to deal with the public health crisis.

Lagevrio is the second oral pill to be used to treat COVID-19 patients in South Korea, following U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid.

The ministry said Lagevrio will be administered to patients who cannot take Paxlovid, and will not be allowed to be given to pregnant women and patients under the age of 18.

The most common side effects reported during treatment and within 14 days after the last dose of Lagevrio were diarrhea, nausea, dizziness and headache, all of which were either mild or moderate.

Lagevrio, which is available in capsules, should be administered as soon as possible after the diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of the start of symptoms.

The drug will be prescribed for twice a day with an interval of 12 hours for five days.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the country will first introduce Lagevrio for 20,000 patients, with the oral drug reaching hospitals Saturday after undergoing customs procedures Thursday.

The agency said it will make an announcement on plans to introduce additional supplies of the drug after consultations.

Currently, Remdesivir, which is developed by Gilead Sciences Inc., is used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients in South Korea.

Also, Rekirona, developed by South Korean pharmaceutical giant Celltrion Inc., is used by COVID-19 patients to reduce the risk of the illness progressing to severe cases.

Both Remdesivir and Rekirona take the form of an intravenous injection.