New COVID-19 pill sparks clinical trials in Immokalee

Investigational antiviral pill Molnupiravir (image not actual size), 2021.
Posted at 5:48 PM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 18:33:30-04

IMMOKALEE, Fla.  — Pharmaceutical company Merck says their new COVID-19 pill cut the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in half during their studies.

Researchers say early results show patients who took the drug within five days of showing COVID symptoms had about half the rate of hospitalizations and deaths as patients who took the placebo.

The company says they are testing the pill on 1,332 people hoping to gain federal approval on what some health officials
like Dr. Christian Ramers are calling the holy grail.

"The holy grail all along has been an oral anti-viral," said Ramers of Family Health Centers of San Diego.

Merck says they are in the final stage of human trials, and will soon ask health officials around the world to authorize the pill’s use.

Dr. Ramers, says a powerful pill has been the goal all along.

“What we've wanted from the beginning is something that's easy that's pill form that we could use really quickly, the way we use Tamivir, which is an oral antiviral agent for influenza," he said.

The drug is called Molnupiravir, and what it essentially does is stop COVID-19 from replicating inside your body.

“This is just like throwing a monkey wrench in the machinery to stop that virus from making copies of itself and really buy time for our own immune systems to get the upper hand and clear the virus," said Ramers.

A few doctors in Immokalee say they're enrolling patients into the clinical trials.

Participants must be at least 18 years old and live in a house with someone who recently tested positive for COVID.

If cleared, it would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19.