INDIANAPOLIS — New COVID antiviral pills from Merck and Pfizer are expected to be in Indiana pharmacies by New Year’s Eve. The medications are the latest tools in the battle against the COVID-19, however drug supplies remain scarce.
“It probably will take at least six to eight weeks before production can be ramped up for some of these medications. and that we have enough on hand for people who need them,” says Brian Dixon, Director of Public Health Informatics at the Regenstrief Institute.
State health officials say the Pfizer pill is 89% effective at reducing severe illness, however just over a thousand treatments were sent to the state. The Pfizer drug is limited to Indiana hospitals, and most facilities are getting just a single box of 20 treatments. The Merck pill will make its way to Indiana Walmart and CVS stores. Just under 5000 treatments of that pill will reach the state. There are eight locations in the Indy area that will carry it, but just two locations in Monroe County will have the drugs on hand. You can see if a store near you is carrying the pills at the Indiana Department of Health’s (IDOH) website.
Any Hoosier looking to get the medication will need a prescription. Now it’s up to doctor’s to determine who should receive the rare drugs first.
“They are really designed for people with illness and diseases that put them at high risk for severe consequence like hospitalization and death,” explains Dixon.
Like the early stages of the vaccine, these pills are being distributed after being granted emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. There are some Hoosiers who would prefer an antiviral pill to the vaccine.
“It still boggles my mind that people would rather take a medication that they know very little about, that they just read online, instead of the vaccine,” adds Dixon, “I think the vaccine is the number one driver to get us to the end of the pandemic, and to that endemic state that we have been talking about.”
In the case of the Merck Pill, state health officials says it is only 30% effective at reducing severe illness caused by the coronavirus.
“Even if you meet the criteria, it is not guaranteed that the medication will be available,” says Dr. Lindsay Weaver with IDOH, “It is not recommended for use in individuals who are pregnant due to concerns about birth defects or miscarriages.”