By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s been a potentially major advancement in the efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic. New Jersey-based drugmaker Merck & Co. says its experimental COVID-19 pill is so effective that the trial has been halted so it can immediately apply for emergency use authorization.

Merck & Co.’s drug would be the first pill to treat COVID-19. If it gets approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it could reduce serious complications and be much easier to administer.

READ MORE: Eagles RT Lane Johnson Announces His Return, Opens Up About Mental Health

The pharmaceutical company is reporting promising results with an experimental COVID-19 drug.

“The news of the efficacy of this particular antiviral is obviously very good news. The data are impressive,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

The drug company looked at 775 adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 at high risk for severe disease. The patients who received the antiviral pill took it within five days of symptoms.

“They were given twice a day Molnupiravir and dramatically by 50% reduced hospitalization and death,” CBS News Medical Contributor Dr. David Agus said. “So an oral pill that works against COVID-19 hospitalization.”

READ MORE: Maurice Hill, Man Accused Of Shooting 6 Philadelphia Police Officers During 2019 Standoff, To Begin Trial Monday

If cleared by the FDA, the new pill could be a game-changer because current COVID-19 therapies are injections that require hospitalization or a trip to a medical facility.

“We could start to prescribe it to patients rather than having to come into an emergency room and be given intravenous therapy of an antibody or shot of antibody. They can get a pill,” Agus said. “This certainly makes it much easier to treat and in the end, will probably save many lives.”

An independent group of experts recommended stopping Merck’s trial because the results are so favorable.

The company plans to submit its data seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA.

“If indeed it is authorized, the federal government has contracted to purchase 1.7 million doses to make this therapy available,” Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, said.

MORE NEWS: WATCH LIVE: District Attorney Larry Krasner, Officials To Discuss Retaliatory Shooting Case, Reiterate Call To End Cash Bail

Other companies like Pfizer and Roche are testing similar drugs that could also report results in the coming weeks.

Stephanie Stahl