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How a new pill could lessen the effects of COVID-19 | Health Beat with Brea Love

Drugmakers Merck and Pfizer have announced they've each created a pill that treats COVID-19. Our health expert explains how they work.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Drugmakers Merck and Pfizer have announced they've each created a pill that treats COVID-19.

ABC10 Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli explained how these pills would work. She said it's a tablet someone could take after testing positive for COVID-19 that can decrease the chances of going to the hospital, shorten the length of your illness, make you less infectious and substantially lower the chance of death. 

While antibiotics are used for those purposes to fight bacterial infections, they don't work for viruses, which is why companies have created a new pill to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Kohli said that medications to treat viruses aren't a new concept.

"We've seen this before with the flu. We have Tamiflu. We've seen this with other viruses like HIV, where we have antiretrovirals," Kohli said. "Basically once you get infected, it's time to shift into damage control and prevent the virus from replicating inside your body by taking this antivirus [pill], so that you can get better faster and you're less contagious to other people."

Kohli said until now, there were not a lot of options to treat mildly ill patients with COVID-19. 

"We have those antibodies that are reserved for high-risk people, but those are given by injection. Then we have Ramdesivir, which is also given in the hospital. I think having a tablet that you can go get from CVS or Walgreens so you don't just have to wait for the virus to do its thing and take its course — but you can actually change the trajectory of the illness after you get sick — is going to be a game-changer," Kohli said. 

Merck is waiting for the FDA to authorize the pill. 

Kohli said Merck stopped its trial early because of the promising results. She said she expects the FDA to give an answer in the coming weeks. 

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