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EXPLAINER - The new COVID-19 pills are easy to use and come with a catch

However, convenience comes with a caveat: Once symptoms present, the pills must be taken as soon after they appear.

It is difficult to get tested, get a prescription, and start the pills within a very short time.

Last week, U.S. regulators approved Merck's Molnupiravir and Pfizer's Paxlovid pills. Both were found to be effective in reducing the risk of death or hospitalization from COVID-19 in high-risk patients. However, Pfizer's was more effective.

A closer look:

Who SHOULD TAKE THESE POILLS?

Antiviral medications are not for everyone who has a positive test. The antiviral pills are for people with mild to moderate COVID-19, who are more susceptible to becoming seriously ill. Both Paxlovid and the pills were approved for adults.

Who SHOULD NOT TAKE THESE PILLS?

Merck's Molnupiravir, which is manufactured by Merck, is not approved for children as it may interfere with bone growth. Because of the possibility of birth defects, it is not recommended for pregnant women. Patients with liver or severe kidney problems should not take the Pfizer pill. This pill may also interact with other prescriptions that a patient may be taking. People with COVID-19 are not allowed to take antiviral drugs.

What's the TREATMENT WINDOW?

You should take the pills as soon as you feel symptoms, and within five days. The most common symptoms include a headache, fever, loss of taste or scent, muscle and body aches, and cough. You can check your symptoms on the website of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Cameron Wolfe is an infectious disease specialist at Duke University Hospital and recommends that you get a test as soon if you feel like you might have COVID-19.

Wolfe stated, "If you wait until your breath becomes a lot worse, then you've already missed the window when these drugs can be of any help."

WHERE CAN I GET THE PILLS?

A prescription from a doctor or another authorized health worker is required before you can use the medication. The U.S. government will purchase the pills from Merck or Pfizer and provide them free of charge, although supplies may be limited at first. They will be sent to states where they can be purchased at pharmacies, community health centers, and other locations. Treatment lasts five days.

A quick COVID-19 test may be performed by some pharmacists, which could allow them to prescribe the pills and administer the COVID-19 test in one visit. This is a common practice in many states, especially for strep or flu.

WILL THE PILLS WORK WITH THE OMICRON VARIANT

Because they don't target spike protein, where the majority of the variant's dangerous mutations are located, the pills should be effective against omicron. Both pills prevent the virus reproducing in different ways.

ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS FOR NEW COVID-19 PATIENTS?

Although they can be taken by injection or intravenously, they are not as simple to use as pills. They are usually administered at a hospital. Although three drugs offer virus-fighting antibody, laboratory testing shows that the two most effective are not against omicron. GlaxoSmithKline, a British drugmaker, has demonstrated that its anti-viral drug works and officials are trying to increase U.S. supplies. Remdesivir is the only approved antiviral drug in the United States for patients with COVID-19.

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