Baystate doctor talks about COVID-19 pill by drug maker Merck | News


Western Mass News spoke with a local Baystate doctor about what this could mean.

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — Big news today as drug maker Merck formally seeks federal approval for its pill to treat COVID-19. It could be a game changer if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives the go-ahead.

Western Mass News spoke with a local Baystate doctor about what this could mean.

“I think it is really an important medication if it is ever authorized, first oral medication for COVID-19 and as you know an oral medication that is easily accessible and convenient and is important to reach those individuals who may benefit from this medication,” explained Baystate Health’s Chief of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Armando Paez.

On Monday, we discussed with Paez the move by drug maker Merck to request authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the First oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19 – citing results of a study involving 700 patients.

“At the interim analysis, molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50%; 7.3% of patients who received molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died through Day 29 following randomization, compared with 14.1% of placebo-treated patients,” the company said in a statement.

But Paez says while short term studies of the medication have shown some promising outcomes, more long-term studies are still needed.

“An issue that is being looked at is the mechanism of action of this drug, probably you read about it. What it does is it introduces errors to the genetic code of the virus and has caused mutations to the virus that inevitably will die out. The question here, can it also do that to the host, meaning to say to the person who is taking it and cause mutations in the long run,” said Paez.

As for adverse side effects of the medication, Paez tells us they appear to be mild ranging from a headache to diarrhea.

If approved, the drug must be given within five days of the onset of symptoms.

But Paez points out the drug does not prevent COVID-19.

“This is not a replacement for vaccination. Vaccination is the still safest way to prevent COVID-19,” he noted. 

The FDA is expected to make a decision about the authorization of the drug in the coming weeks.

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