Huntsville Hospital doctor speaks on Merck’s anti-COVID pill


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Drug-maker Merck asked the Food and Drug Administration for authorization of their anti-COVID pill on Monday. If cleared by the FDA, it would be the first pill shown to actually treat the virus.

“It’s always great to have treatments available because the more we have, the more choices we have to take care of in the way of management of patients,” said Dr. Ali Hassoun, an infectious disease specialist with Huntsville Hospital.

He says this would not take the placement of a vaccine. While the pill would help with treatment, the vaccine helps with prevention.

Even so, Dr. Hassoun believes the pill could help save lives.

“It looks like it probably will cut down on the hospitalizations and mortality,” he said. “I think everything else should be still continuing, like the monoclonal antibody.”

Merck’s new drug works differently than other treatments available. Dr. Hassoin says it will attack the virus on a certain enzyme and will prevent it from replication.

While there are similar-working tablets used overseas, Dr. Hassoun says because of some problems and side effects they caused, they never made it to the states. But Dr. Hassoun has done his research and believes Merck’s pill looks safe.

“It seems it does not have major side effects or problems,” he said. “Of course, we’re going to need more information to get in there and publish, but it seems actually really safe.”

Now, we wait on FDA approval which could take weeks.

Health officials continue to push vaccines as the best way to protect against COVID-19. Even still, the Associated Press reports effective drugs will be critical in controlling future waves of infection.

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