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Researchers in Pittsburgh working to put anti-viral to treat and prevent COVID-19 into pill form

PITTSBURGH — Getting a COVID-19 shot is a non-starter for some people, but what about putting the vaccine into a pill?

Doctors in Pittsburgh are participating in a nationwide clinical trial by Merck, which aims to prevent - and treat - the coronavirus with a pill.

Dr. Bryce Palchick is leading the trial in our area and says the pill is not a replacement for the vaccine, but rather it compliments it.

“And that’s the advantage; it’s a pill it would be easy to distribute and it would be easy to take,” Palchick said.

Some folks love the idea.

“I think it’s a good idea. Everyone gets protection, the sooner we get things back to normal in this country the better,” said Robert Lowers of Mercer County.

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It’s an idea similar to Tamiflu – a medication that treats the flu but the Covid-19 pill is a totally different drug.

Dr. Palchick says people may have to take one dose twice a day for five days after Covid-19 exposure.

Right now the trial is in Phase 3 and studies so far show patients who took the pill are eight times less likely to test positive for Covid-19.

“So we would identify someone who comes down with Covid and ask the people in their household for them to come in and they can be treated to see if we can prevent the disease,” Palchick said.

Lowers, of Mercer County, said it may help some people with vaccine hesitancy.

“Some people are scared of needles,” he said. “I know my mother is. It was a big deal for her to get her vaccine.”

They are aiming for the pill to be on the market and available later this year. It would be available by prescription only.