RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Another COVID-19 treatment could be available soon. Pfizer announced its pill could cut the risk of hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients by 80 percent.
The White House has already ordered 10 million courses of treatment but the Federal Drug Administration still needs to authorize its use. The availability will depend on when the FDA director signs off on it.
“Today or tomorrow, we will pass 800,000 Americans dead because of COVID. That is a frickin awful number,” said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an associate professor of medicine at Duke Health.
While some people have called treatment pills “game changers” in the fight against COVID-19, Wolfe said it’s not an end-all solution.
“This doesn’t take away anyone’s desire to please go and get vaccinated. If you haven’t, you will get COVID soon enough. If you’ve made that choice, you have to start thinking about what that’s going to look like,” Wolfe said.
Pfizer’s pill, Paxlovid, would only be for high-risk patients. That includes people over 65 or those with underlying medical conditions. Studies for people at “standard risk” are still underway.
“You want to target the people first, when a drug supply might be limited, to the people who are going to have the worst outcomes,” Wolfe said.
There is no public plan for distribution yet but Wolfe says it may look like the initial vaccine rollout. The federal government could allocate doses to states who would then determine what hospitals and pharmacies get them.
Wolfe said the pills would likely be accessed through your health provider.
“You need to speak to your physician or your clinic to get a monoclonal antibody infusion, one of the options open to your clinician soon will be, hey, maybe this person’s benefit tablets or maybe this person is better for the infusion, and you get a bit of choice,” said Wolfe.
This treatment would come as a set of three pills taken twice a day for five days. The sooner you start taking it, the better. They are not a replacement for a vaccine but another weapon in the pandemic arsenal kit, officials said.
“What would have been a hell of a lot better is that you didn’t get in the first place either because you know, you’ve got a vaccine, your mask, you’re taking thoughtful steps about distancing when you need to or gatherings that are kept relatively small,” Wolfe said.
Pfizer’s pill isn’t the only one on the horizon. An FDA advisory committee already said they approve of molnupiravir- another treatment pill from the pharmaceutical company, Merck.
That company is also awaiting FDA authorization.