Merck and Pfizer have joined a few other therapies that have been proven to reduce the severity of the virus. Each treatment is different and works best for different types of patients at different stages.
Here are the COVID-19 drugs currently in use and their uses.
Prescription pills are the first COVID-19 treatments that don't require injections or infusions from health professionals.
Pfizer's Paxlovid was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday, and Merck’s molnupiravir by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.
Merck's drug is only for adults who have had a positive COVID-19 and are experiencing early symptoms. They also face the greatest risk of being hospitalized. Pfizer's drug is for people 12 years and older who also face the greatest risk of hospitalization.
Because of its superior benefits, and less side effects, Pfizer's drug will likely be the first-choice remedy against the virus. Molnupiravir is not recommended for use during pregnancy as it can cause birth defects. Molnupiravir should only be considered if other treatments are not available or inappropriate.
Both therapies should be initiated as soon as symptoms appear. Patients must be tested quickly and diagnosed.
Experts predict that antiviral pills will eventually be combined to fight COVID-19. This is similar to HIV drugs.
Antibody drugs have been the first-choice treatment of patients suffering from early COVID-19 symptoms, even if they don't require hospitalization.
Three of these drugs have been approved in the U.S. as treatment options. They have been shown to decrease the risk of death and hospitalization by at least 70% if administered within 10 days of onset of symptoms. These drugs are used primarily for COVID-19-affected adults at high risk. However, they can also be used to prevent infection in those who are particularly vulnerable.
However, the omicron variant is reducing their enthusiasm. Recent laboratory testing by Eli Lilly and Regeneron has shown that their antibodies will not be as effective against the omicron variant, which contains many mutations that make it more difficult for treatments to work.
GlaxoSmithKline is the third option. It's not widely accessible in the United States, but it appears to be the most effective.
These drugs are subject to several limitations. They must be administered by a healthcare professional.
Remdesivir is an antiviral infusion that remains the only medication available to hospitalized patients that targets coronavirus.
It's used to provide extra oxygen for patients who don't need breathing machines but still require it. It has been proven to reduce recovery times by several days in these cases. Many doctors have stopped using the drug because of its inability to increase survival rates. The World Health Organization has withdrawn its recommendation due to its high cost and lack of benefit.
The survival rate of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital has been increased by steroids drugs, which are a common staple in emergency care. They reduce inflammation and other immune-system reactions that can lead to the most severe effects later in the disease.
U.S. regulators also approved transfusions of blood plasma from COVID-19-recovery patients to newly infected individuals. However, there is little evidence that it reduces the risk of death and illness.
A U.S. panel d'experts concluded that the evidence was insufficient and that it shouldn't be recommended for patients with impaired immunity. The WHO has recently recommended against its continued usage.