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The government has expressed interest in introducing an oral antiviral drug for COVID-19 by the end of the year, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida saying that such treatments could become a “key trump card” in the prolonged, uphill battle against the coronavirus.

U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co. and Miami-based Ridgeback Biotherapeutics last week filed an emergency use authorization application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for molnupiravir, for the treatment of mild and moderate COVID-19 symptoms in adults who are at risk of hospitalization or developing a severe condition. The FDA is set to meet on Nov. 30 to weigh Merck’s request.

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