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Health experts hope potential COVID-19 antiviral pill leads to less severe illness

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 4:19 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Drugmaker Merck has requested emergency approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for what could be the first pill used to treat COVID-19.

Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Steven Threlkeld, says the pill would provide even more options to treat patients.

“That really would be a game-changer to be able to provide people with a pill to take that would cut their chance of having more severe illness,” he said.

Current FDA-approved treatments for COVID-19 include monoclonal antibodies, as well as remdesivir for patients who are sick enough to need hospitalization.

“Remdesivir was the first one approved but didn’t have maximum impact because its efficacy was somewhat limited. And the approval - at first by EUA now full approval - was really for people who dropped their oxygen levels and needed to be in the hospital,” Threlkeld said.

Currently, remdesivir treatment costs roughly $3,000, monoclonal antibodies cost over $2,000 per infusion, and the Merck antiviral drug is listed at $700, though the company says that is not the final price.

Threlkeld says Pfizer is also working on an antiviral pill.

The hope is that antiviral pills will cut down hospitalizations.

“It would indeed be a game-changer that would really help us put a nail in the coffin of this stage in the pandemic and get us back to normal,” Threlkeld said.

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