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Merck's COVID-19 pill may be taken once exposed to COVID-19, says expert

Merck & Co’s experimental antiviral pill molnupiravir may be taken once exposed to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), decreasing the chances of acquiring the illness, an infectious disease expert said Tuesday.

In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Dr. Rontgene Solante said the pill may be taken once exposed to the virus and once in danger of becoming a severe case.

“Halimbawa, ikaw ay isang kasama doon sa directly confirmed na COVID-19, tapos pwede kang mahawaan, pero hindi pa lumalabas ‘yung sintomas… Ang sa data binigyan nila ng gamot 24 to 36 hours,” Solante said.

[For example, you are a close contact with a directly confirmed case, but you don’t have symptoms yet… doctors gave them the pill within 24 to 36 hours.]

“So nakita ng doktor na mas less ang chances mo na maski merong transmission, mas less ka mag-develop ng COVID. So more on prevention siya,” he added.

[The doctors saw that there are fewer chances of developing COVID-19 even if there is a transmission. So it’s more on prevention.]

Meanwhile, Solante said COVID-19 positive individuals with mild symptoms who are in danger of becoming severe cases may also take the pill.

“Ibibigay ito sa mga may high-risk na pwedeng mag severe kagaya ng may mga edad, or may mga comorbidities, or ‘yung mga immunocompromised,” he said.

[It will be given to high-risk cases that may turn severe such as the elderly, those with comorbidities, or those immunocompromised.]

Solante said the pill will then prevent the virus from duplicating.

However, he said the results of the trial show that there is no effect on already severe cases.

“Hindi. Kasama din ‘yan sa trial pero hindi nagiging successful ang result nila. Parang walang nangyayari doon sa binigay sa severe,” he said.

[No. That’s also included in the trial but the results are not successful. But there are also no side effects on the severe cases.]

He also clarified that the virus will stay inside the body before eventually dying.

“Hindi niya pinapatay. Blina-block lang niya ang pagdami ng mikrobyo… nandoon [pa rin sa katawan]. Pero alam mo, eventually, mamatay din ‘yun kasi lalabanan ng immune system natin ‘yan,” he said.

[It’s not going to kill the virus. It just blocks the duplication of the microbes… It will stay in the body. But it will eventually die because our immune system will fight back.]

Solante said it is possible that the pill could be a "game-changer" since most of the country's cases have mild symptoms.

"Ano ang kinakatakuna natin ng mild... kung ang mild makahawa ng matanda, so ang matanda pwede mag severe, o 'yung mild na may comorbidity pwede mag proceed to severe," he said.

What do we fear with mild cases? If they pass the virus to the elderly that can become severe or mild cases with comorbidities that may also become severe cases.]

"Pagbibigyan mo itong gamot, 40 to 50% ang chance maka block siya na hindi na siya makahawa sa iba, ay malaking chance 'yan. Mataas ang benefit niyan, kaunti ang hawaan," Solante said.

[If you give them the pill, there a 40 to 50% that it can block the virus. That's a big chance. It also has a huge benefit, it will lessen transmission.]

The Department of Health has said that it would try to obtain a better position to purchase the pill if ever it is proven beneficial.

It said that the pill could be made available locally if the drug manufacturers would apply and hurdle regulatory processes in the country.

Several Asian countries are in talks with Merck & Co. for the purchase of the molnupiravir such as Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia. -NB, GMA News