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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill research set the stage to seek emergency authorization of the first oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19, a pill developed by the pharmaceutical companies Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. William Fischer, MD, at the UNC School of Medicine led pivotal clinical trials on the drug molnupiravir.


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William Fischer, MD

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say a twice-daily pill – molnupiravir — could change the way COVID-19 is treated. Today’s announcement by Merck Co. to seek emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration reflects early research and testing conducted at the UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Strong clinical trial results showed the experimental COVID-19 pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half in people recently infected with coronavirus. UNC-Chapel Hill began working on molnupiravir in 2016 and showed the drug could be a weapon against coronaviruses and future pandemics.  

“This is a real game changer for a pandemic like COVID-19 because it allows us to treat people quicker with a method that’s convenient and accessible,” said William A. Fischer II, an associate professor of pulmonology and critical care at the UNC School of Medicine and director of emerging pathogens at the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. 

Read more from the UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine Newsroom.