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Experimental pill to treat COVID-19 closer to emergency use authorization

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 5:28 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT, S.C. (WTOC) - We’re hearing from local health officials in Beaufort County after a company announced an experimental pill to treat patients with COVID-19.

Drugmaker Merck says the pill would cut hospitalizations and deaths by half with people recently infected with the virus. The company had paused its trial and plans to request emergency use authorization from the FDA.

It could become the first oral medication to treat the coronavirus, if approved.

Dr. Kurt Gambla and WTOC have been talking about the coronavirus constantly as we’ve tracked new developments and varying case numbers. Tuesday, when speaking about this drug, he explained why the medical community is hopeful.

“This is an oral agent so that’s kind of a game changer,” said Dr. Gambla.

Dr. Gambla says the early numbers were so promising that they stopped the phase 3 trial, not needing more proof of its efficacy.

“The preliminary data suggests that this cut the risk of hospitalization and death by up to 50 percent.”

He says the drug, which is called molnupiravir, is currently in the consideration phase. Next step being emergency use authorization, which allows doctors to prescribe it to the public and is just one step below full FDA authorization - meaning this could be close.

“The forecast is this is going to happen sooner rather than later.”

When that becomes a reality, Dr. Gambla emphasizes that this drug is not a preventative measure like the vaccine.

“You wouldn’t take this like you would take a vitamin or blood pressure pill or something hoping that you wouldn’t catch COVID by taking this, this will be contemplated by folks that have been infected with COVID to keep them from progressing to hospitalization or death.”

That last point is something he really drove home, saying although this is an exciting development, getting vaccinated is still a much better way to fight this virus overall.

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