FAQ: New COVID-19 Pill Under Review


Researchers are working on new treatments for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. One of those treatments is a pill from Merck that is under review with the FDA. If approved, it could provide greater access to treatments for patients who do not need hospitalization.

Richard Martinello, MD, Medical Director of Infection Prevention for Yale New Haven Health answered some frequently asked questions about the pill.

How does it work?

This medication is an antiviral pill that works by stopping the virus from replicating. It reduces the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and helps to speed up recovery. Initial data shows it also helps to reduce hospitalizations, death, and works against the current variants spreading in our community.

How is it different from monoclonal antibodies?

Monoclonal antibodies are another treatment option currently available for select COVID-19 patients. Similar to antibodies that develop naturally in the body, monoclonal antibodies help the body fight off viruses like COVID-19. The biggest difference between this treatment and the pill is that monoclonal antibodies are administered through an IV infusion, requiring a hospital setting. The medication from Merck is an oral capsule or pill given for five days.

When can I get this pill?

Merck is seeking an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. The FDA will thoroughly review the available data before determining whether there is enough evidence to show it is safe and effective. It could be several weeks before that happens.

Do I still need to get vaccinated?

Yes. Even if the FDA deems this medication as safe and effective, it does not replace vaccination. It is still the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.