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Two Pills for It

The US Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization for antiviral pills from Pfizer, as CNBC reports, and Merck, as the Washington Post reports, to treat COVID-19. Oral treatments, the Post notes, could help keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital.

Last month, Pfizer reported that its oral antiviral treatment, Paxlovid, led to an 89 percent reduction in risk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations or deaths. According to CNBC, the FDA has now authorized its use in patients 12 years old and older with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 but who are at increased risk for hospitalization or death from the disease.

The agency has also granted an EUA for Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics' oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19, molnupiravir, the Post says. The companies reported in October that their treatment reduced the risk of hospitalization or death among high-risk COVID-19 patients by 50 percent, but a more recent analysis instead found it reduced that risk by 30 percent. According to the Post, the FDA has authorized its use for patients 18 years old and older who are at increased risk of severe disease and "for whom alternative COVID-19 treatment options authorized by the FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate."

The Post notes that although the pill from Merck does not appear as effective as the one from Pfizer, it may be more widely available as the White House expects to ship 3 million treatment courses to the states by the end of January. By contrast, the Financial Times reports that 265,000 treatment course of the Pfizer pill will be available in January, though 10 million will be delivered by the end of the summer.