New COVID-19 treatment pills come as Utah omicron rates increase

Dec 23, 2021, 11:25 AM | Updated: 11:46 am
new COVID pills...
Two new antiviral pills have been authorized for treatment of COVID-19. This image provided by Pfizer in October 2021 shows the company's COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. U.S. health regulators on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021 authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus. Photo: Pfizer via AP

SALT LAKE CITY — Just as health officials estimate at least 30% of COVID-19 cases in Utah are omicron, two new antiviral COVID pills have been authorized for use.

The Utah Department of Health currently estimates close to a third of all cases in the state may now be omicron.

Read more: Health officials estimate 30% of COVID-19 cases in Utah are omicron

As Omicron spreads rapidly across the United States and in Utah, the Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency authorization for two COVID-19 at-home treatments, in the form of a pill.

On Wednesday, Pfizer’s Paxlovid, an oral antiviral pill, was approved for manufacture and distribution to individuals, ages 12 or older who weigh at least 88 pounds, with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. 

On Thursday, the FDA authorized Merck’s molnupiravir; another potential pill to combat COVID. 

Distinct differences between the pills’ effects and safety levels indicate Merck’s pill will play a much smaller role in treatment than previously thought. Molnupiravir carries a safety warning for pregnant women and warns of the potential for birth defects.

Also, Merck’s pill was shown to be much three times less effective than Paxlovid in reducing hospitalization and death from COVID-19 during testing. 

Read more: US adds second COVID-19 pill, this time from Merck

Neither drug is considered a substitute for vaccinations and boosters. The antiviral COVID pills will be used to treat symptoms for approved groups for no more than five days.


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New COVID-19 treatment pills come as Utah omicron rates increase