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Doctors Say New COVID-19 Pills Can Be An Effective Treatment Option

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- On Thursday, Merck's COVID-19 pill was issued emergency use authorization by the FDA.

On Wednesday, Pfizer's COVID-19 pill was authorized.

Dr. Marc Itskowitz with Allegheny Health Network said this news is a big deal and will make a big impact to help end this pandemic.

"It gives us a good treatment option for outpatients," Itskowitz said.

Dr. Itskowitz said it's a good treatment option that would prevent COVID-19 patients from developing severe symptoms or ending up in the hospital. While both Pfizer and Merck's pills have been issued emergency use authorization by the FDA, Itskowitz said there are differences.

"We expect the Pfizer pill to gain more traction because of the improved efficacy at 90 percent reduction for Pfizer versus a 30 percent reduction for Merck," said Itskowitz.

Itskowitz said the FDA provided EUA for Merck if Pfizer is hard to come by once it's stocked in local pharmacies, which he suspects might be an issue when it's available next month.

How can you get the pill if you need it?

"If a patient tests positive for COVID through a PCR or rapid test, they would contact their doctor and then the doctor would prescribe medication with appropriate precautions," said Itskowitz.

He said the pill is designed for people more likely to get a severe infection, like the elderly or people with underlying health conditions.

But what about if you're vaccinated?

"They really didn't differentiate that. They mostly looked at the patient's age and underlying risk factors. So even if someone has been vaccinated, we would still offer them the medication," said Dr. Itskowitz.

KDKA asked some people what they think about the pill and got some mixed answers.

"I would take it. I would do a little more research on it. I'd probably go through with it," said George from Ross Township.

"I think it's too early to know what type of effects it can give on your body. They're all too new. I wouldn't give anything to my kids or anyone else," said Marie from Shaler.

As for side effects, Dr. Itskowitz said there are some restrictions on who will be able to take it. He said you should talk to your doctor. However, he said overall, side effects are minimal. He said nausea is the primary one.

Dr. Itskowitz said the pill won't cost you anything. He said normally, these drugs would be extremely expensive, but with the government's plan, he said patients won't have to pay out of pocket.

Itskowitz said the pill is not a substitute for getting the vaccine.

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