UVMMC infectious disease expert says more information is needed about Merck’s Covid-19 pill

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The anti-viral drug, Molnupiravir, could be another layer of protection in the fight against Covid-19, but medical professionals say it might be too soon to know for sure.

Drugmaker Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are designing a pill for people who are sick with mild-to-moderate Covid-19 to help reduce the risk of hospitalizations and death. Early results show the pill cuts these chances by 50 percent.

Dr. Tim Lahey is an Infectious Disease Expert at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He says while these findings are encouraging, Merck and its partner need to provide more data.

“We don’t have enough details to really take this to the bank. So I think they were excited about the study results and I’m excited about learning more. But I want to make sure we don’t overdo the excitement until we have more information,” said Lahey.

Merck announced that it plans to seek Emergency Use Authorization as soon as possible. If approved, Dr. Lahey says it would become the first oral pill to treat Covid-19 and likely wouldn’t require a trip to the hospital.

“So you have to go down to the testing site, say pine street. Get your swab and the next day, when the result comes back positive your primary care doctor needs to know that and prescribe the drug,” said Lahey.

People in the community say a Covid-19 pill would provide a sense of comfort, especially for those with weakened immune systems.  

“One of my sons has had a liver transplant and even though he’s been fully vaccinated, he’s more susceptible to a breakthrough infection, it would be a big relief to know there would be a therapeutic pill he could take,” said Stephen Kuehne, visiting from Minnesota.

UVMMC Surgical Instrument Technician Kevin Fryer, who relocated to Vermont due to staffing shortages, emphasizes the pill is not designed to replace the vaccine and urges everyone to get the shot.

“It’s kind through the whole industry into chaos. They need me to come up from Philadelphia because a lot of workers are going down south because the pandemic is so bad down there, said Fryer.

With further review and an ‘ok’ from the FDA, Dr. Lahey says Merck may provide the medical breakthrough needed right now. 

“We already know that you can give steroids to treat Covid-19 when people are really sick and in the hospital and those could be given orally if we wanted. But, really, this would be the first time we had powerful outpatient treatment for Covid-19 that wouldn’t need you to come into the hospital for a transfusion of any sort,” said Lahey.

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