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Wellington infectious disease specialist explains how first COVID-19 treatment pill works

Posted at 9:58 AM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 09:58:58-05

The Food and Drug Administration is considering approving the first pill designed to treat patients with COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the federal agency is expected to vote on authorizing the antiviral drug for emergency use. A move that could provide patients with more options to fight the deadly virus.

The red capsule is called Molnupuravir and is made by the drug company Merck and Co.

Doctors consider the treatment medication to be a game changer in keeping patients out of the emergency.

One of the greatest benefits, according to local infectious disease expert Dr. Larry Bush, is that it provides patients the opportunity get treated for the coronavirus at home.

“We need this because first of all, we know our vaccine rate in this country has been stuck at around 62%. We also know that people who've been vaccinated can break through cases and they can transmit it to those who've been vaccinated and those who have not been vaccinated. What we don't know is if the future variants both Omicron and possibly others will totally evade our vaccines. So vaccines are great, but we can’t change them immediately to become more effective,” said Bush

He added the pill can also pose a major threat to the Omicron variant as well as other undiscovered strains because of how it works which is very different from monoclonal antibody treatment and vaccines.

The pill fights the virus head on and prevents it from replicating and spreading.

Its important to note there are a few concerns.

The drug has been found to cause birth defects in animals and was proven to only be 30% effective against hospitalization and death. Two topics that Bush says the the FDA is expected to discuss today in detail before making a final decision.

Despite the concerns Bush stressed the need for for this type of medication

"What this is, is another option to treat people who are broken through or people who have become infected before a vaccine, or people who just won't get a vaccine. And so it's another arm in our armament in fighting COVID-19. It's a treatment. So if we have this we will have three arms, will have vaccines will have monoclonal antibodies, and now we'll have a somewhat effective pill, a treatment pill.”

The pill has already been authorized for use in the UK.

It still needs final approval from the FDA and the CDC before patients can start using it in the U.S. If approved it would be prescription only and patients will be instructed to take it twice a day for 5 days.