A pair of Indian drugmakers on Friday requested permission to end late-stage trials of their generic versions of U.S.-based drugmaker Merck's drug molnupiravir. A point of contention was how Merck and the Indian companies defined "moderate" cases of COVID-19.

Reuters noted how Merck's trials were based on FDA definitions, which for "moderate" COVID-19 is blood-oxygen levels as no lower than 93%. India trials define moderate COVID-19 blood-oxygen levels as 90% to 93%.

Merck recently revealed that its promising experimental oral antiviral drug was effective against mild or moderate cases of COVID-19, and its Phase 3 trial found only 7.3% of people who received the pill were hospitalized due to the coronavirus within 29 days.

Merck also said that 14.1% of those who received the placebo were either hospitalized or died from the virus.

“That’s hugely clinically significant,” Ilan Schwartz, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Alberta, who had no involvement in molnupiravir's development, told the Atlantic in a report released Wednesday.

Merck said it would seek emergency authorization from the FDA for molnupiravir, which has no serious side effects. The drug has yet to be peer-reviewed. 

On Thursday, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and other countries announced agreements to purchase molnupiravir, even though it has yet to be approved by regulators.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, doesn’t think the potential approval of molnupiravir means Americans should stop getting vaccinated against the virus.

In an appearance Sunday on the ABC News program “This Week,” Fauci was asked whether the COVID-19 vaccine was necessary if the Merck drug was approved. 

“That’s such a false narrative that someone says, ‘Well now you have a drug.’ Remember, the easiest way to stay out of the hospital, and not die, is don't get infected,” Fauci said.

"I mean this idea about ‘We have a drug, don’t get vaccinated,’ just doesn’t make any sense," he said.

Fauci insisted the vaccine was still important to have to decrease the chances of dying from COVID-19.

“If you look at the people who get hospitalized, and the people who die, it is overwhelmingly weighted towards the people who are unvaccinated,” Fauci said.

Fauci said the U.S. already purchased 1.7 million doses prior to learning the drug was effective and have the option to purchase millions more.

Top US disease expert Anthony Fauci Top U.S. disease expert Anthony Fauci is seen speaking to a New York church group on June 6, 2021. Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Jeenah Moon