There is hope that two new Covid pills will drastically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from the coronavirus.
This week UK regulators approved molnupiravir. The UK government has ordered 480,000 courses of the drug, with a study to be conducted to determine its effectiveness against Covid.
The US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has meanwhile announced results for the clinical trial of its new Covid-19 pill and has raised hopes that it too can play an important role in the fight against the virus.
READ MORE: When to take the new Merck Covid pill and who is prescribed molnupiravir?
So what are these new Covid pills, do they work – and do we have to worry about the possible side effects?
What are the new Covid pills?
Molnupiravir was developed together with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics by the US pharmaceutical companies Merck, Sharp and Dohme.
The drug can be taken as a pill instead of being given as an injection or intravenously. It is most effective when given within five days of the onset of Covid symptoms.
Pfizer’s Covid pill is called Paxlovid. The pill combines ritonavir – which is usually used to treat HIV and AIDS – with an antiviral drug.
The UK government has ordered 250,000 paxlovid courses in addition to the 480,000 molnupiravir courses. The first shipments of molnupiravir are expected this month, with Paxlovid shipments expected in January.
Do the Covid pills work?
Clinical studies suggest that molnupiravir reduces the risk of serious illness or death in unvaccinated patients with Covid-19 by about half, from 14.1% to 7.3%.
According to the first data published by Pfizer, paxlovid is now even more effective. The company says its drug reduces the risk of hospitalization or death from Covid by 89%.
Although Pfizer’s data has not yet been peer-reviewed, the announcement was hailed as a major breakthrough.
Do the Covid pills have side effects?
Corresponding Yale medicine, the presented study data suggest that molnupiravir has so far not caused any major side effects in volunteers.
However, certain groups of people were excluded from the process, including pregnant women.
Pfizer has not yet given full information on the side effects of paxlovid, but says that about 20% of patients who received the pill or a placebo have subsequently experienced adverse events.
Possible side effects of ritonavir, a component of paxlovid, include diarrhea and nausea.
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