COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A little red pill meant to prevent COVID-19 cases from becoming serious and life-threatening, could soon stock American medicine cabinets.
This week, an FDA committee narrowly voted to recommend emergency use authorization for Merck’s antiviral pill molnupiravir.
“This could be a game-changer to have another tool in our toolbox that millions of people can get,” said Dr. Anup Kanodia, a family physician in Central Ohio.
Kanodia explained the pill’s availability could have profound implications on the pandemic, despite clinical trials concluding it is less effective than originally thought.
Early data suggested the drug could reduce the chances of COVID-19 hospitalizations and death by 50 percent, but the pharmaceutical company discovered the effectiveness to be closer to 30 percent when trials ended.
“What we’re finding is it’s very good for the elderly or high-risk population,” Kanodia said, adding it could be a helpful option in addition to the vaccine, booster shots and other safety measures.
The drug has been compared to Tamiflu, another antiviral medication meant to limit the effects of flu. Doctors would prescribe molnupiravir when symptoms present themselves and a patient would take 4 pills twice daily for 5 days to complete a course.
“If you get it, you go to the doctor’s office, get a pill and be able to go home and get better versus going to the hospital [when you’re seriously ill],” explained Kanodia.
If the FDA grants emergency use authorization, Kanodia estimates molnupiravir could be available within weeks.
The U.S. government has already purchased more than 3 million courses for distribution when the drug is authorized.
Pfizer plans to seek authorization for its own antiviral pill. Early data suggests it could be up to 89 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations and death.