FDA committee says yes to 1st COVID-19 treatment pill, cautions use in pregnant people

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Merck & Co. Pharmaceutical Company (Courtesy of Merck)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A COVID-19 treatment pill could be coming to a pharmacy near you. An FDA advisory committee said the pill was effective in treating the infection but their biggest hang up was whether it was safe for pregnant people.

Pregnant people were not included in the trials for this pill so FDA advisors had to consider testing in animals that hinted at potential risks for pregnant people or their babies.

Ultimately, the committee decided to endorse the pills. Some committee members said they would not recommend the pill for pregnant people. Some cautioned the pill only be used in high risk pregnant people when there are no other options.

The FDA committee recommend the pill for everyone else. If the FDA director signs off on their recommendation, it could make molnupiravir the first at-home treatment for COVID-19.

Currently, if you wanted a COVID-19 treatment, you’d have to find a monoclonal antibody infusion center, sign up for an appointment and then sit for a treatment lasting about an hour.

The treatment pill would be a simpler alternative. It is taken every 12 hours for 5 days. Patients could pick up the antivirals with a prescription like any other medication.

The pharmaceutical company, Merck, said their pill was 30 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and deaths in mild to moderate infections. It’s not exactly a slam dunk. Current infusion-based therapies are more than 70 percent effective in treating illness.

This pill would only be for adults. While children over the age of five can be vaccinated, they are still without any treatment options if infected.

Merck may not be the only company with a COVID-19 pill on the market for long. Pfizer is also working on getting approval for its own treatment pill. Pfizer reports that its drug Paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalization by 89 percent. It would also be a five-day regimen.

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