PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Pharmaceutical company Merck has applied for approval from the FDA for their revolutionary Covid-19 anti-viral pill. If authorized, the treatment would be the first of its kind for the virus, with many health experts saying more treatments like it could be forthcoming.
Clinical data suggests that regimen, when given over a five day period, can reduce risk of hospitalization or death by 50 percent.
Dr. Mohammad Ali, an infectious diseases physician at Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center, says that while the data has not been peer-reviewed, the results for its safety look promising.
“As far as safety is concerned, the data that we’ve seen states that it’s pretty safe...it seems like they did not see any significant side effects with the pill, especially in the first few weeks”
The treatment itself is similar to several other anti-viral pills already on the market for other diseases and stops the virus in it’s tracks.
“It tampers the replication of the virus, and if the virus is not replicating," Dr. Ali says, "it would not cause infection in an individual, or it would not be as severe as it would if it were allowed to replicate freely.”
Now, the FDA must decide whether or not to grant the pill emergency use authorization, which Dr. Ali says is likely.
“I feel it has a high likelihood of getting emergency use authorization – and I'm sure there will be other drugs like this will come out, because Covid-19 is not going away."
However, while the pill is significant in it's ingenuity and ease of use compared to the current monoclonal antibody treatment, Dr. Ali says there are still several hurdles.
"My biggest concern? We are heading into a season where we can see lots of respiratory infections and it someone gets diagnosed with Covid-19 six to seven days after their symptoms, we can’t administer them the treatment because it won’t make a difference.”
The FDA could come to a decision about the treatment within weeks.
Meanwhile, other companies are also working on antiviral pills. One created by Pfizer could be available by the end of this year, according to Pfizer's CEO.