It's a pill you could take early on, similar to taking Tamiflu for the flu.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Shannon Bott came down with COVID at Thanksgiving.

“It was just the worst I ever felt. I’ve had bronchitis, I’ve had the flu. And it was much worse than either of those. And it went on for so long,” she says. “I definitely was extremely sore, feverish, no energy for close to a month.”

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She wishes there had been a pill she could have taken to shorten the illness and make it less severe.

“There was such worry about how was this going to progress, is it going to get worse? People just all of a sudden go from doing okay to not being okay. Having some sort of treatment that mitigates that would have been fantastic,” she says.

Pfizer is working on that: a pill you would take early on, just after symptoms start, similar to taking Tamiflu for the flu.

“This is, hopefully, something we could roll out at the first sign of illness, to keep you from ever having to come to the hospital, to ever be admitted to the ICU,” says Dr. Brian Lamb, an internist at Allegheny General Hospital.

Currently available treatments require an IV, but this would not.

“This could be a true gamechanger. This is something that’s as easy as, ‘I have symptoms, I have a positive exposure,’ we could think about starting something right then,” he explains.

The drug is in a class of medicines called protease inhibitors. They’re used for other viral infections, such as HIV and hepatitis C. They can be given in combination with other antivirals. The medicine interferes with enzymes the virus needs to make copies of itself.

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Pfizer started early phase studies in March.

“We have to make sure that it works in a human and that it’s safe for us to take,” Dr. Lamb says.

Sometimes protease inhibitors affect the digestive system and metabolism, but they’re generally well-tolerated.

If all goes well with the trials, the medication could get emergency use authorization by the end of the year.

But Dr. Lamb says you shouldn’t skip your vaccine and rely on this possibility to save you from COVID.

“We don’t want anyone to pin their hopes on something which may not come out,” he says.

If Shannon developed COVID again, and this pill was available, she would want it.

“I don’t want to have to go through that again,” she says.

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Having an outpatient option, for herself and loved ones, would give her peace of mind.