Covid pills promising but their utility yet uncertain

Pfizer’s Paxlovid, Merck’s Molnupiravir new drugs in Covid treatment
Covid pills promising but their utility yet uncertain

KOCHI:  With a third wave of the pandemic looming large, serious discussions are on about administering booster vaccine doses and the usefulness of the new oral Covid pills. Though Covid pills are claimed to be a game changer in dealing with the pandemic, experts are sceptical and divided about their utility. The Covid pills — Paxlovid and Molnupiravir by Pfizer and Merck, respectively — are the new promising antiviral drugs in Covid treatment that patients can take at home to prevent complications.

“Antivirals need to be given as early as possible, before an infection takes hold, to be most effective. The pills use the same technique as the monoclonal antibodies that are used for the treatment of Covid patients. The antibodies are now used in the form of IV fluid, and it requires hospitalisation and is expensive. If the Covid pills are taken early — within three-four days of testing positive or developing symptoms — progression of the infection and hospitalisation can be prevented.

The multiplication of the virus can be reduced by the pills,” said infectious disease expert Dr Anup R Warrier. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) is reviewing the clinical data of Molnupiravir, the first anti-Covid pill approved in the UK for Covid treatment. Presently, the UK is the only country to approve the use of the pill. Pfizer claimed that the antiviral pill for Covid cut the rate of hospitalisation and death by nearly 90%. “The companies have not yet published the whole data of the trials conducted.

Therefore, at this stage, we cannot completely rely on the pills. The pills are similar to HIV drugs. Therefore, we might require monitoring of liver dysfunction as it can have a mild impact on the organ. We do not believe that it will be a game changer.

Earlier, Lopinavir and Ritonavir — antiviral drugs used for the treatment of HIV — was used for Covid patients but it was not proven effective,” said Dr Monu Varghese, pulmonologist based in Kochi. Rather than booster doses and Covid pills, the utmost priority should be for Covid vaccination. “The government should take measures to fully vaccinate those who are yet to take the vaccination. The campaigns and measures should be strengthened from the ground level itself.

Maybe in the long run, the pills can play a vital role as it may be cheaper and easily accessible in future,” added Dr Monu. However, there are experts who believe that these drugs could play an important role in Covid treatment, especially those at high risk, in the early stages of infection. “Covid continues to haunt the lives of many. The booster doses along with oral medication for Covid can help us fight the third wave.

The pill has been proved effective in patients with mild to moderate symptoms. Since many have been already on the path of getting fully vaccinated, the pills can offer great relief reducing severity and hospitalisation,” said a general medicine department professor at Ernakulam Government Medical College Hospital.

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The New Indian Express