Currently, the most effective treatments available for Covid in the US are monoclonal antibody drugs, which bind to the virus and prevent it from infecting cells. But these treatments are usually given intravenously by health professionals. This can present logistical challenges for both hospitals, many of which are congested and understaffed, and patients, who may not be able to get to clinics or infusion sites.
The new antivirals are different. “You may be able to pick up your prescription and go home,” said Dr. michelle barron, the senior medical director of infection prevention and control for UCHealth, a Colorado health care system.
The Merck and Pfizer treatments, in which 30 or 40 pills are taken in five days, should be given early in the course of the infection, while the virus is multiplying rapidly.
In clinical trials, which included only unvaccinated people at high risk of serious illness, Merck’s regimen reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by about 30 percent when given within the first five days of symptoms, while Pfizer’s regimen reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by about 30 percent. risks reduced by 89 percent when taken within the first three days of symptoms.
To replicate these results in the real world, people need to act quickly, perhaps at the first sign of sniffing.
“It starts with public education so that when people get mild symptoms early in their illness, they think, ‘This could be Covid-19, and I should get a test,’” said Alyssa Bilinski, an expert in the field. of public health policy at Brown University. “In that case, we must of course have access to tests that should ideally be affordable. Then people should get their test results back and they need to get them back soon.”
She added: “This should all be done within three to five days.”
It’s not yet clear whether officials will require patients to undergo some sort of Covid test before prescribing the drugs. In Britain, which already approved the Merck pill, regulators only specified “a positive diagnostic test for SARS-COV-2”.