Pfizer and Merck have developed pills to treat adults with COVID-19. But the drugs have not yet been studied in children.
Nate Hanson, Mauricio Chamberlin, Brandon Lewis
09:17 CET December 8, 2021
09:17 CET December 8, 2021
Pfizer and Merck have developed pills to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Both drug manufacturers have filed for emergency use with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The pills are intended to treat people already infected with COVID-19, not as a vaccine replacement.
Viewer Sandra emailed the VERIFY team asking if Merck or Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pills can be given to children.
Are Merck and Pfizer’s COVID-19 Treatment Pills Currently for Children?
No, Merck and Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pills are not currently for children.
WHAT WE FOUND
Merck and Pfizer studied their COVID-19 pills in trials similar to how the vaccines were developed.
A study of Merck’s pills found that they reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 30% in high-risk unvaccinated volunteers. Pfizer said that in clinical studies, people who started pill treatment within three days of showing symptoms had an 89% lower risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization or death compared to people who received a placebo.
But the effectiveness of those pill treatments has only been studied in adults — not children. Therefore, the FDA can only consider approving the pills for adults.
Researchers often start with adults and then work backwards to study drugs on children, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a Los Angeles health care organization.
“Trials for children require special ethical and clinical considerations and must meet a higher standard before they can recruit participants,” said Dr. Moshe Arditi, Academic Director of the Department of Allergy and Immunology for Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Cedars-Sinai.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the FDA note that children are not “little adults.” Therefore, making a drug that is safe and effective for children is not as simple as lowering the dosage.
“Their bodies work in very different ways and they often go through a lot of changes as they grow from childhood through adolescence and adulthood,” the WHO said. “Because their bodies work differently, it’s important to create child-specific drugs and treatments rather than just adjusting doses and therapies for adults.”
It is not known when pills for the treatment of COVID-19 will be available for children. Pfizer told VERIFY via email that it has not yet set a timeline to begin studying a pill treatment for children.
More from VERIFY: No, Pfizer’s COVID-19 Pill treatment is not a vaccine replacement