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Doctors hope antiviral COVID-19 pills, inhaled treatments can push the pandemic in the right direction

If Merck's antiviral coronavirus pill is given emergency use authorization, it's expected to be available by the end of the year.

AUSTIN, Texas — Vaccinated or not, more protection from dying of COVID-19 complications could be on the way in a couple of forms. 

"I'm excited to use it, potentially," Texas Infectious Disease doctor Ogechika Alozie told KVUE.

Alozie is a member of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force. He said he looked into the clinical trial results for Pfizer and Merck's antiviral coronavirus pills. 

"What's really exciting about the Pfizer pills is that it seemed to reduce the risk of death by over 90%. And in the ones that actually took the pill within five days, nobody died," said Alozie. "That's compared to 10 people that died on placebo. The Merck data was similar. Also, nobody died." 

Earlier this month, Merck's treatment was approved in the U.K. By the end of November, the FDA is set to discuss Merck's request for emergency use authorization (EUA) in the U.S.

"This is a treatment," said Ogechika. "Within five days, on average, people will take this medication and it should reduce their risk of the serious effects of COVID." 

In Austin, Benchmark Research is wrapping up a study on an inhaled COVID-19 treatment. 

"Generally, we've not seen any significant adverse effects," said Chief Business Officer Cynthia Dukes. "Everything seems to be well-tolerated." 

Dukes said the inhaled administration is done using a nebulizer.

All of these treatments aim to keep those infected out of the hospital. If Merck's anti-coronavirus pill is given EUA, it's expected to be available by the end of the year.

"We're getting to the point hopefully early next year where COVID will stop terrifying us," said Alozie. "You can really start to focus on treating COVID like a lot of other medical threats that we are."

The Biden administration said the U.S. has secured millions of doses of both Pfizer and Merck's antiviral pills. 

Alozie and Dukes said these treatments are not a replacement for the vaccine.

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