Merck’s new COVID-19 pill reduces the risk of hospitalization and death by 50% among patients with mild or moderate illness, the company said Friday. Merck will seek emergency use authorization for oral antiviral treatment molnupiravir, which it’s co-developing with Ridgeback Therapeutics. (CNBC)

Weekly COVID-19 cases in the U.S. dropped by 15% last week compared to the previous week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said. The drop in cases and hospitalizations comes after the country experienced a surge in late August. (Reuters)

Democrats in Congress have agreed to curtail their drug pricing proposals in order to sway moderates to their favor in their latest package. That may include dropping a proposal that would allow the government to negotiate drug prices in Medicare. (Politico)

Use of vaping and e-cigarette products declined significantly in 2021, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. However, the report found that 2 million high school and middle school students continue to use e-cigarettes. (The New York Times)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a draft guidance on using real-world evidence, including electronic health records and medical claims data. It’s meant to guide researchers and sponsors when using such data to support the new use of an FDA-approved drug. (FDA)