Health

FDA Authorizes Pfizer, Merck COVID-19 Pills Which Reduces Death, Severe Disease

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
Font Size:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to Pfizer’s antiviral COVID-19 pill Wednesday, granting access to another highly effective therapeutic against the virus.

The drug, Paxlovid, can be prescribed to those aged 12 and up with mild or worse COVID-19 cases and is designed to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization. Early supply of the drug will be limited, but eventually it is expected to provide major relief to hospitals strained by COVID-19 patients.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Wednesday the company will begin delivery of the pills immediately. Clinical trials of the drug found it to be 89% effective at stopping high-risk patients from developing serious disease or dying, the company said. The full course of treatment involves taking three pills twice daily for five days after infection. (RELATED: Despite Evidence, Walensky Refuses To Call Omicron ‘Mild’ In Interview With Fox’s Bret Baier)

The treatment must begin within five days of first symptoms in order to be effective, the FDA said. Bourla said there will be 180,000 courses of treatment available by the end of this year and up to 80 million available next year. The Biden administration has already made plans to purchase 10 million courses of the treatment.

Thursday, the FDA granted EUA to a similar pill from Merck, molnupiravir. Trials indicate that Merck’s pill is not as effective as Pfizer’s, as it only reduces risk by about 30%. Molnupiravir was narrowly recommended by the FDA’s expert advisory committee on drugs last month. The FDA is only recommending the Merck pill in situations where no alternative treatment is available, and the agency said the pill should be avoided by children and pregnant women.