Your Healthy Family: Deeper look at COVID-19 pills as Omicron variant surges

Posted at 7:41 AM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 07:41:13-05

As cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 rise across the country, Fox 4 is taking a closer look at two new pills authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the virus.

"It's going to transform the way that we can treat COVID-19 and help to avert those dreaded hospitalizations, ICU stays and death," Dr. Megan Ranney, the Associate Dean of Public Health at Brown University, said.

Both COVID-19 pills can be taken at home. Pfizer's drug has to be prescribed by a doctor, and is a three-tablet dose, taken twice daily for five days. Pfizer said data showed the pill cut risk of hospitalization or death by 88 percent if given to high-risk adults within 5 days of their first symptoms.

"This is a very, very, very potent agent, and you're not going to need to go to a hospital to get an infusion like monoclonal antibodies," Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University, said.

To be eligible for Pfizer's treatment, you have to be considered high risk. You have to be at least 12 years old, weigh at least 88 pounds, and have tested positive for the virus.

Merck's antiviral pill treats high-risk adults, and also must be taken within five days of a positive COVID-19 test.

Health experts have said the pills are not a substitute for vaccines, but are a potential game changer as the Omicron variant surges across the country.

"Preliminary testing does suggest that it still works against the Omicron variant, which is terrific news," Dr. Ranney said.

Merck has an agreement with the U.S. Government to supply 3.1 million treatments. The White House has purchased 10 million courses of Pfizer's treatment, with the first 250,000 expected to be rolled out in January.