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Two Covid-19 pills that would help treat infections move to late-stage three trials

Companies Merck and Pfizer are each working on pills that could help prevent hospitalizations.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two pills that would treat Covid-19 at home in the early days of infection are in the late-stage three trials. 

Companies Merck and Pfizer are each working on a pill you could conveniently take at home like you would Tamiflu for the flu. It would be prescribed by a doctor and could prevent serious illness that could turn into a stay at the hospital. 

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Threlkeld said there is a chance we could see clinical trial data later this fall with relatively early emergency use authorization. If it's found to work, it will also likely help free up the ICU beds being used by Covid-19 patients for others who are sick with something else and they can receive better care. 

"The reason it’s such a game-changer is there is very little to offer people when they are early in disease even if they are high risk," Threlkeld said. 

Threlkeld said between the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine and potentially this pill, it could help shrink this pandemic. 

"We’re building up a series of weapons that we can throw at this and what we’re really missing in all that though is something that’s convenient, you can do at home, and that is an early therapy to prevent the severe disease," Threlkeld said. 

However, the pill does not mean you should skip getting vaccinated. Threlkeld pointed out the pill still has not been officially found to work yet and it also will not prevent you from getting sick as the vaccine does. 

"We’re now talking about just entering into phase three trials with a new drug that may or may not turn out to have that sort of effectiveness and safety," Threlkeld said. "If it does, it’ll have to go through the emergency use authorization situation much like the vaccine went though, came through, and is now fully approved."