DAVE & DUJANOVIC

Utah doctor weighs in on new COVID-19 pill you can take at home

Dec 6, 2021, 4:53 PM
covid pill...
This undated image provided by Merck & Co. shows their new antiviral medication. The drugmaker has said its experimental pill for people sick with COVID-19 reduced hospitalizations and deaths. (Merck & Co. via AP)
(Merck & Co. via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Could the world defeat the pandemic once and for all with a pill everyone could take at home — no doctor’s appointment, no needle necessary? A Utah doctor who specializes in infectious diseases gives her take on a new pill promising to do that.

Independent advisers to the FDA endorsed the pill — molnupiravir — in a 13-to-10 vote last week after voicing concerns about its low efficacy rate and potential risks to pregnant women.

The pill is not meant to replace vaccinations. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection in people who received two doses and had no evidence of being previously infected, according to the CDC.

“The vaccine is our first-line tool for preventing hospitalization, and I’m a little concerned that the attention on molnupiravir will draw attention away from vaccination,” says Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist Dr. Jaimie Meyer.

Merck said the new pill is 30% effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death in high-risk patients, down from the 50% efficacy that Merck announced in October, according to Financial Times.

The pill is meant to be taken after a person has experienced COVID-19 symptoms.

Carlos del Rio, an executive associate dean and infectious disease specialist at the Emory School of Medicine, said the pill “should work” against other variants because of how they stop the virus from replicating as reported by Politico.

The pill structure resembles the nucleosides — or chemical building blocks — used to make the virus’s RNA, which carries the genetic information of many viruses.

The doctor is in

Dr. Emily Spivak is an associate professor of medicine specializing in infectious diseases at the University of Utah Health. She joins KSL NewsRadio’s Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to talk about the pros and cons of the new pill.

“There are a lot of questions about the effectiveness or efficacy of the drug,” she said. “And that’s one of the reasons that the FDA advisory panel vote was split 13 to 10.”

Spivak pointed out the Merck pill is an anti-viral drug, not a monoclonal antibody in pill form. Some evidence suggests that monoclonal antibody treatment can reduce the amount of virus that causes COVID-19, according to the federal government website Combat Covid

“There is some preliminary evidence that it can incorporate into DNA and cause mutations, specifically in people who are of childbearing reproductive age,” Spivak said.

Proven to work

The new pill is similar to Tamiflu, an antiviral medication used to prevent serious flu symptoms, according to Yale Medicine.

“There’s at least more data in my opinion that Tamiflu actually works. We don’t have one clinical trial thus far for this Merck pill,” Spivak said. “[Tamiflu] doesn’t have these concerns, these really serious side effects — at most it usually makes people nauseated.”

The doctor said she would recommend monoclonal antibody treatment — instead of the Merck pill — for a patent who has risk factors for severe disease.

“At this point, I’m having a hard time thinking of somebody I would recommend the Merck pill for until we have more information.”

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

Dave & Dujanovic

emergency kits are a vital part of preparedness for families...
Curt Gresseth

How families should prepare for an emergency at home or away

Do you have an emergency reunification plan ready for your loved ones? Two experts share tips on what to do when disaster strikes while at home or away.
2 months ago
Cherie Wood...
Curt Gresseth

South Salt Lake mayor defends new $130,000 salary

The mayor of South Salt Lake defended her latest salary of $130,000 by saying she hasn't received a pay raise in 11 years in office.
2 months ago
South Salt Lake at Southern X-posure, the site of a deadly shooting....
Curt Gresseth

South Salt Lake resident wants to stop mayor and City Council from awarding themselves raises

A South Salt Lake resident has taken his ballot initiative on pay raises for city leaders to the Utah Supreme Court after being rebuffed by the city attorney on what he said was a technicality.
2 months ago
Connerjack Oswalt was found in Park City, Utah after being missing from California years ago. (CNN)...
Curt Gresseth

Missing three years, autistic teen found in Park City

An autistic teen missing from northern California since 2019 was found by sheriff's deputies in Summit County, Utah. He has since been reunited with his stepfather.
2 months ago
Debbie busts inflation by buying consigned clothes....
Debbie Dujanovic

Dujanovic: Battling inflation like it’s 1981

Inflation has Debbie Dujanovic budgeting like it's 1981. She has tips on how to battle inflation and save your wallet some tears.
3 months ago
design...
Devin Oldroyd

Utah wants your help redesigning the state flag by April 30

MILLCREEK, Utah — Utah residents have until April 30 to submit their ideas for a redesign of the Utah state flag.  According to a press release from the Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement, Gov. Spencer J. Cox launched the “More than a Flag” effort in January. The effort is part of a statewide […]
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Utah doctor weighs in on new COVID-19 pill you can take at home