4 News Now Q&A: What should you know about the first COVID pills?

Your Questions Answered

Q: What should you know about pills to fight COVID?

As omicron continues to spread this holiday season, drug companies Pfizer and Merck are preparing to launch the first COVID pills. These at home tests would be prescribed by doctors and picked up at your local pharmacy to reduce the risk of becoming severely sick. 

Here’s what we know about Pfizer’s pill: 

Paxlovid is designed to treat infection early and you can take it at home.

Studies show it can reduce the risk of hospitalization nearly 90 percent among people at risk for severe illness.

These pills will be available by prescription and some hospitals expect to receive the first doses as early as next week.

Limited first supplies will likely be given to people showing serious symptoms and those with underlying conditions that make them high risk.

Health experts are calling the pill a game changer.

“I think it can end up making a really enormous difference,” Dean of Brown University School of Public Health Dr. Ashish Jha said. “The problem is in the short run, we’re just not going to have a lot of this. Pfizer is working as hard as it can to produce pills. The U.S. government’s buying them all. But the bottom line is that in the next few weeks, we’re not going to have a lot of these. So it won’t probably help us that much with the omicron wave, but it will make a huge difference down the road.”

You can learn more about Pfizer’s treatment here.

Here’s what we know about Merck’s pill: 

The FDA has cleared the pill, making it potentially available within a few weeks.

However, molnupiravir comes with real risk.

The agency says the pill is not as effective as Pfizer’s and also carries the possible risk of causing reproductive harm.

Older people and those who have underlying conditions would be eligible to get a prescription for Merck’s pill if they get infected with COVID and cannot get Pfizer’s pill.

Both Merck and Pfizer’s treatments require patients to take several pills twice per day for five days.

Read more about Merck’s pill here.

What are you curious about? Submit your questions here and we’ll go to the experts to find answers.