Coronavirus ward, Ichilov Hospital Tel Aviv
Coronavirus ward, Ichilov Hospital Tel Aviv Eitan Elhadez / TPS

Britain became the first country to officially the use of the Merck pharmaceutical company's drug to treat coronavirus symptoms on Thursday.

The drug, called Molnupiravir, is in pill form and has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the chance of dying or being hospitalized by half if given in the first five days after symptoms begin.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid called the pill a "gamechanger" for patients with compromised immune systems.

Israel is in talks to purchase Molnupiravir from Merck, Channel 13 News reported last month.

Israel has asked Merck to ensure that there will be enough stock of the drug to be ready to be flown to Israel, but is holding off on finalizing the purchase until the drug receives FDA approval.