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KPCC: The Latest on COVID-19

KPCC show AirTalk recently featured Sam Torbati, MD, co-chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, updating listeners on recent COVID-19 developments, including newly released data regarding an experimental treatment for the disease.

AirTalk host Austin Cross–filling in for Larry Mantle—said clinical trials for an investigational COVID-19 therapy showed that the pill reduced hospitalization and death by half in people recently infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. He asked Torbati to explain how the drug works and how it compares to the vaccines.

"The pill inhibits replication of the virus," Torbati told Cross, contrasting it to the COVID-19 vaccines, which fight the virus by triggering the body’s immune response. "They work through different mechanisms. Still, it's amazing to see this."

Torbati said that if approved, the experimental therapy from Merck would be a "wonderful new addition" to existing resources available to medical providers. But he worried that "producing enough of this to provide to the entire world may be an ongoing challenge." He told Cross that the public shouldn't view this potential treatment as a silver bullet.

"My only fear about this is that people will say, 'I'm not going to get vaccinated. I'm going to put my guard down. I'm going to stop wearing my mask and washing my hands because even if I get (COVID-19), I'm just going to take the Merck pill, and I'll be okay,'" Torbati told Cross.

Still, Torbati was hopeful that he and other healthcare providers might soon have another tool in their COVID-19 arsenal. "I think time will tell a lot, but this news … amazing, really amazing," Torbati told Cross.

Click here to listen to the complete interview from KPCC.