Georgia gets first shipments of Merck, Pfizer COVID pills

The Georgia Department of Public Health announced Thursday the first shipments of COVID-19 treatment pills by Merck and Pfizer are heading to a small number of pharmacies throughout Georgia. The initial supply of Merck’s molnupiravir and Pfizer’s Paxlovid will be very limited, health officials say.

DPH said it anticipates additional allocations in the coming weeks as production increases.

The two treatments — both of which are prescription pills — could be a powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19. The tablet form of treatment is convenient, can be picked up at a pharmacy, and taken at home. All previously authorized drugs for COVID-19 require an IV or injection.

The initial shipments, which were expected to begin arriving Thursday, will include 1,620 doses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid, and 7,500 of Merck’s molnupiravir.

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Both drugs require a prescription and should be taken as soon as possible after a COVID-19 diagnosis and within five days of first symptoms. Both pills are authorized for patients who are vulnerable to becoming severely ill from COVID-19 because they are older or have pre-existing medical conditions such as obesity or diabetes.

Pfizer’s version appears to be the more effective treatment with a research trial showing it reduced the risk of hospitalization or death among high-risk patients by about 85%. Merck’s version reduced risk of hospitalization and death in high-risk patients by 30%.

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According to guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), initial allocations were made to federal pharmacy partners. DPH said it has also partnered with Walmart, Walgreens, and Good Neighbor Pharmacy Group (a group of small independent pharmacies) to ensure the medications are available across the state.

Pharmacies that have received allocations of the pills can be found on the DPH website at https://dph.georgia.gov/dph-covid-19-guidance.

The Food and Drug Administration recently issued an emergency use authorization for both molnupirvar by Merck and Pfizer’s Paxlovid.

While antivirals may help treat COVID-19, DPH emphasized vaccination is the best prevention against COVID-19 infection. Georgians ages 5 and older are eligible for vaccination.