Up until now, 19 months into the COVID pandemic, the medical community has relied heavily on prevention through three vaccines. They work and are safe, yet a large proportion of the American population remains unvaccinated.

At the end of October and beginning of November, 2021, Merck and Pfizer released study results on two oral medication treatments that are very encouraging. The Merck pill decreased hospitalization and death by 50%. The Pfizer, 89%. Those are popping numbers.

The development could represent a shift from a prevention (primarily) to a prevention plus treatment strategy. While there are a couple of effective treatments available they are difficult to administer. Monoclonal antibodies require an IV infusion, and remdesivir is given only in hospitals.

The two new pills were tested in those with underlying conditions such as diabetes that put them at higher risk of hospitalization and death from COVID. In the Pfizer study, 389 participants took the pill within 3 days of developing symptoms and only three required hospitalization. Of the 385 who took the placebo, 27 were hospitalized or died. That computes to an 89% reduction. Stunning outcomes for a medicine taken by mouth that targets a virus.

The Pfizer medication works by inhibiting the naturally-occurring chemicals in our cells that a virus uses to replicate itself. It is in a class of meds called protease inhibitors that HIV patients have taken for decades. As a class, they are safe and effective.

What does this development mean for you?

  • The Merck pill received British authorization the last week of October. It is possible that both will be FDA approved and available by prescription in the United States by the end of the year. Assuming that happens, if you develop COVID symptoms and test positive within three days, we will offer to treat you with one of them.

  • We haven’t received FDA recommendations regarding treatment in the vaccinated versus unvaccinated, but I anticipate that everyone will be eligible. We have seen enough breakthrough infection and hospitalization to warrant broad use of a safe and effective oral treatment. The treatment will likely shorten the course of the illness in vaccinated people allowing quicker return to work and shorter periods of virus shedding.

It is reasonable to fear that since the treatment may soon be available that folks will opt out of getting vaccinations and boosters. It will be an unfortunate development since, as our moms all taught us when we were young, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Questions? Call us today to let one of our five providers assist you with any questions or concerns you may have regarding COVID-19, its’ boosters, and preventative care.