Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWatch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds press briefing Activists take fake bones to Klain’s home to highlight vaccine demands The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Alibaba – To vote or not? Pelosi faces infrastructure decision MORE, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, on Friday called new trial results for a Merck pill to treat COVID-19 “impressive,” as experts say the treatment could be a key tool in the pandemic fight.
“The data are impressive,” Fauci said at a White House press briefing, noting he was briefed by the company on its results on Thursday night.
Merck said in a press release that the trial found that its drug cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 50 percent.
Eight trial participants who received a placebo died, compared to zero who received the drug from Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, called molnupiravir.
An easy to use and produce pill to treat COVID-19 has long been a goal, given that current treatments like monoclonal antibodies require infusions and are more cumbersome.
Fauci declined to weigh in on when exactly the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could authorize the drug, saying “we always hesitate to make any timelines,” but said the FDA would move “as quickly as they possibly can” to examine the data.
“This is a phenomenal result, I mean this is a profound game-changer to have an oral pill that had this kind of effect,” former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CNBC.
Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, tweeted: “This could turn out to be one of the most important advances to counter Covid.”
Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsGOP senators say Biden COVID-19 strategy has ‘exacerbated vaccine hesitancy’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Alibaba – Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in Travel industry hopes for rebound with loosened COVID-19 restrictions MORE, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said the U.S. government has a contract for 1.7 million doses, with the option for more.
Still, Zients emphasized that the drug does not take away from the importance of getting vaccinated, which can prevent getting infected in the first place.
“The right way to think about this is this is a potential additional tool in our toolbox to protect people from the worst outcomes of COVID,” Zients said. “I think it’s really important to remember that vaccination, as we talked about today, remains far and away our best tool against COVID-19. It can prevent you from getting COVID in the first place.”