On Wednesday, U.S. health officials approved the first oral pill against coronavirus. It is a Pfizer drug that people will be able to take at home in the U.S. to avoid the worst consequences of the disease.
The long-awaited event comes as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rise in the U.S. Health officials warn that another massive wave of new infections is yet to come.
They think that the new omicron strain could overwhelm hospitals.
Now a faster way to treat early covid infections is the drug, Paxlovid. However, initial supplies will be minimal. All of the previously authorized drugs require an injection or an IV.
Health authorities expect an antiviral pill from Merck to win authorization soon. But Pfizer’s drug is the preferred option because of its fewer side effects and high effectiveness, including a nearly 90% reduction in deaths and hospitalizations among patients at high risk to get the severe disease.
Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic said that the side effects are low while the efficacy is high, plus it’s oral. He added that seeing a 90% lowered risk of death and hospitalization in a high-risk group is excellent.
Health authorities approved Pfizer’s pill for children ages 12 and older and adults who tested positive and have early symptoms. That includes more senior people and conditions like heart disease facing a high risk of hospitalization.
However, health authorities do not recommend the pill for patients with severe liver or kidney problems. Children eligible for the pill must be at least 40 kilograms.
Pfizer now has 60,000 to 70,000 out of the total 180,000 treatment courses allocated to the U.S. The company said it plans to have 250,000 available at the beginning of 2022 in the U.S.
Federal health officials will assign early shipments to the parts of the country severely hit by the pandemic. Pfizer said the company could split production time next year.
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