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  • Julian Reynoso

Beyond the Dome: Hope Begins to Emerge as Pills for COVID-19 are in Development

We have all experienced some form of trouble from the COVID-19 pandemic. The vaccines that have come up to help protect us against COVID have been countered by the new Omicron variant.

The variants that have sprung out from COVID make a difficult situation even more tough, as we have to continue to deal with new strands that get us more sick than the last. With the new Omicron variant that is spreading, the circumstances only appear to be getting grimmer as the months go by.

According to The New York Times, there are two pills being developed by Pfizer alongside Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to combat the virus that works against all variants of COVID. The article states that Merck and Ridgeback began studies for their pill in 2019, and Pfizer began their studies “nearly two decades [ago], … when Pfizer researchers were searching for a drug that could fight the coronavirus that caused SARS.” Both have shown positive results.

According to The New York Times, Merck and Ridgeback’s pill molnupirvir “reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 by 30 percent if taken within five days of the onset of symptoms.” Meanwhile, Pfizer’s pill “was 85 percent effective when taken within five days of the start of symptoms. The F.D.A. could authorize it by year’s end.” Although there are positive results that have come from these drugs, there are reasons why they are not being distributed yet.

According to Zimmer, one reason that molnupirvir is not being given out immediately is because experts are discussing the possibility of the pill mutating not only the virus but also people’s DNA. There are no confirmed side effects though, so those who are recommending the pill are only suggesting that it be given with “strong reservations.” Pfizer’s pill has less controversy around it because there is no way that it can mutate DNA, unlike molnupirvir.

The possible issue that arises with Pfizer’s pill according to the article is that “our own cells make proteases, which we use to whittle down our own proteins, enabling them to perform new jobs. While many protease-inhibitor drugs have proved safe, some of them can also lock onto our proteases instead of the proteases made by viruses. Still, the short course of pills needed to stop COVID-19 may reduce any such risk from a drug like Paxlovid.”

Even though these newly developed antiviral drugs may have some consequences, they are a step towards fighting COVID and eventually putting a stop to what has so heavily affected us all.

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