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Short Supply of New Antivirals

Due to limited supply, new antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 may not yet make a dent in addressing the pandemic, the Washington Post reports.

In December, the US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorizations for two oral antivirals, one from Pfizer and one from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. In testing, Pfizer's Paxlovid led to an 89 percent reduction in risk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations or deaths, while molnupiravir from Merck and Ridgeback led to a 30 percent reduction in risk. At the time, the Post wrote that the hope for the pills was to help keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital.

But due to their low initial supply, the effect of the new treatments on the pandemic has thus far been limited, it now reports. Because of this, Shelley Schmidt, a critical care physician and pulmonologist, tells the Post: "I don't think they'll end up being the game changers we want them to be."

According to the Post, the US government has bought 10 million courses of Paxlovid and 3 million course of molnupiravir and has distributed 365,000 courses to the states using a population-based formula. It adds that Pfizer as well as Merck and Ridgeback are working to increase their production, though notes that the production of the Pfizer pill takes months.