Scientists Say That a Daily Pill to Treat Covid-19 Could Be Just Months Away

A pill a day could keep Covid away – wouldn’t that be nice! It’s not reality yet, but scientists are working on it.

Yes, we have been in this pandemic for far too long, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Not only are there vaccines, but now scientists are also conducting clinical trials of a daily pill that could treat Covid-19. The goal is to produce a pill that someone who tests positive for Covid could start taking that same day. The goal of the pill would be to reduce the severity of the illness and help the patient get quicker faster. In addition, the pill would also make it less likely that the patient would spread Covid to others.

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill virologist Timothy Sheahan explained, “Oral antivirals have the potential to not only curtail the duration of one’s Covid-19 syndrome, but also have the potential to limit transmission to people in your household if you are sick.”

Tamiflu is a widely known antiviral that many people take to help reduce the duration of the flu, but that is far from the only antiviral that’s currently being used to treat illnesses. For example, there are also antivirals to treat HIV and hepatitis C.

Carl Dieffenbach is the director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He is also overseeing the development of antivirals to treat Covid. Dieffenbach believes that “we will have answers as to what these pills are capable of within the next several months.”

There are currently three antivirals in clinical trials that look promising. One being developed by Pfizer is known as PF-07321332. Another one is being developed by Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticals. The most promising one is being developed by Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. It is called molnupiravir.

Robert Davis is the Chief Executive of Merck. He said the company expects to submit the data from the trials to the Food and Drug Administration to hopefully get emergency use authorization before the end of 2021. If the Merck antiviral is approved, the company predicts that they could have over 10 million courses of therapy available before the end of the year. 

Meanwhile, Atea expects results from their Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials later this year, and Pfizer is currently conducting Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials. Atea and Pfizer have not made predictions about how quickly they could ramp up production of their antivirals if they are eventually approved.

There is already one antiviral for Covid that has been approved; however, it is only given to patients who are so sick that they become hospitalized. The antivirals that are being developed would ideally be packaged into a single pill that a patient would take once a day at home.

Besides just being used to treat people who are infected with Covid, the antivirals are also being tested to see if they can prevent those around them from getting sick. For example, if one person in a household tests positive for Covid, it’s possible that everyone in the household might be able to take an antiviral to prevent getting Covid from the sick member of their household.