New emerging drug treatments could soon lead to at-home treatment with antiviral medications for coronavirus.
Last week, U.S. health advisers endorsed an antiviral drug from Merck to treat COVID-19. It sets the stage for an expected authorization of the first pill that Americans could take at home for the coronavirus.
The Food and Drug Administration panel voted that the drug’s benefits in curbing hospitalizations and deaths outweigh its risks.
Those risks include potential birth defects if used during pregnancy.
The FDA isn’t bound by the panel’s recommendation and is expected to make its own decision before the end of the year. Merck’s pill could provide a much-needed therapy as colder weather pushes case counts higher and U.S. officials brace for the arrival of the new omicron variant.
Merck is not the only maker seeking approval for an at-home pill, Pfizer also going through a similar process.
Pfizer found that their oral antiviral pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in an interim analysis.
Merck however released more information the day after Thanksgiving that revealed their pill, molnupiravir, reduced hospitalization and death by 30% instead of 50% that was initially reported.
It’s unclear when approval could come down, but it could be soon.
As for the pills, experts say they should not be used alone but should be used with other measures like vaccines, boosters, and necessary mitigation measures.