If you contracted COVID-19, would you take a pill to help treat the virus?

That question might be on some people’s minds in the near future, if the US Food and Drug Administration clears the way for drug-maker Merck’s new pill.

On Monday, Merck asked US regulators to authorize the pill for treating COVID-19, in what would add an entirely new weapon to the world’s arsenal in dealing with the pandemic.

The pill is being described as an anti-viral that could be taken at home to help reduce the symptoms of COVID-19 and speed the recovery time. Think of oseltamivir phosphate the generic version of Tamiflu, that doctors prescribe to those who have contracted the flu.

The drug, molnupiravir, which is what the COVID pill will be made of, could help ease the hospital caseload in the United States, but it could also help with outbreaks in poorer countries that have weak healthcare systems.

“It would also bolster a two-pronged approach to the pandemic: Treatment, by way of medication, and prevention primarily through vaccinations,” an Associated Press news story reported.

However, before a decision is made, the FDA will scrutinize molnupiravir for effectiveness and safety before rendering a decision. Ridgeback Biotherapeutic and its partner, Merck, are asking for emergency approval for use in adults with mild to moderate COVID-19, who are at risk for hospitalization or severe disease. 

“The company reported earlier this month that the pill cut hospitalizations and deaths by half among patients with early symptoms of COVID-19,” the AP report said. “The results were so strong that independent medical experts monitoring the trial recommended stopping it early.”

Despite the promise of molnupiravir in treating the virus, top US health officials still claim that vaccinations are the best way to protect against COVID-19, but not everyone believes it. There are skeptics who refuse to get vaccinated for myriad reasons, chief among them, the safety of the vaccine. 

It’s probably safe to assume that those same skeptics would not feel comfortable taking a pill to treat the virus, should they contract it.

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