The FDA will scrutinize the safety and effectiveness of the drug before making a decision.By Chris Hoffman

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A new COVID-19 treatment is being called a game-changer.

Drugmaker Merck is asking for federal approval for a COVID-19 pill to treat the virus that people could take at home and possibly avoid treatment in the hospital.

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The announcement by Merck has doctors optimistic. Current COVID-19 treatments are hard to perform away from a hospital.

“We’ve had the monoclonal antibody treatment for that population, which has been effective. It requires an IV infusion, which can sometimes be difficult to get set up,” AHN Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Nathan Shively said.

According to Merck, the pill cuts hospitalizations in half for patients with early symptoms. The company is looking for approval for adults with mild to moderate symptoms who are at risk for hospitalization.

“That could alleviate some of the burden on health care systems,” Dr. Shively said.

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According to Dr. Shively, the pill was only tested on the unvaccinated, so doctors don’t have data yet on breakthrough cases. He said the best defense is still the vaccine.

“Vaccination is more effective at preventing hospitalization and death. It can also protect you from getting infected in the first place. It’s widely available now,” Dr. Shively told KDKA.

As for the distribution of the drug, Dr. Shively is not sure how it will go yet but feels it could become an easy process if approved.

“I expect, eventually, this should be as simple as somebody writing a prescription and picking it up at the pharmacy,” Dr. Shively said.

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The FDA will scrutinize the safety and effectiveness of the drug before making a decision.