WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — One company says it developed a pill that could cut the risk of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in half. The company, Merck, is now planning to apply for emergency use authorization for this treatment.

“The data are impressive,” said Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci says Merck briefed the White House COVID-19 response team late Thursday on its findings that show patients who take the antiviral pill within five days of symptoms had about half the rate of hospitalization and death than patients who received a placebo.

In the placebo group, there were eight deaths, and in the treatment group, there were no deaths. That’s also very important and very good news,” Fauci said.

Fauci says gaining EUA will take some time for Merck.

“Because once a recommendation is made, then we go through the same process of getting the recommendation for its usage through the CDC,” Fauci explained.

Still, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients says the government has already committed to purchase 1.7 million doses of the drug if it is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

Zients says while this is good news, encouraging vaccinations remains the first priority.

“We want to prevent infections, not just wait to treat them once they happen,” he said.

Merck says it will submit its data to the FDA in the coming days. If approved, the company says it is prepared to produce 10 million doses by the end of this year.