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Gottlieb in Sioux City: Merck's pill offers 'profound treatment' for COVID-19

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Dr. Scott Gottlieb

Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb speaks with local reporters on Oct. 12 before he headlined Morningside University's annual Waitt Lecture Series.

SIOUX CITY -- Merck's new antiviral pill shown to reduce people's COVID symptoms and increase their recovery is a "profound treatment" in the fight against the global virus, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in Sioux City.

Gottlieb, a frequent national voice in the COVID-19 pandemic discourse, spoke Tuesday at Morningside University's annual Waitt Lecture Series.

"This is probably the most profound treatment in fact that I've seen from an orally available drug in the treatment of any respiratory pathogen,"  Gottlieb said of the drug maker's pill, is awaiting FDA approval for home use to treat people with mild or moderate COVID symptoms. "So, for an oral drug to have this magnitude of effect on any respiratory disease, let alone COVID, is pretty meaningful." 

Gottlieb said the pill could be used in conjunction with antibody drugs and used for people who have been vaccinated and have breakthrough infections.

His comments came at a news conference at Morningside before his lecture Tuesday night.

The lecture at Eppley Auditorium was Gottlieb's first opportunity he discuss why he wrote his new book, "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic," and what ideas are out there to prepare for the future.

The main message Gottlieb wanted the Waitt Lecture Series audience to leave with is that there are many things the U.S. can do differently to prepare for the future and they are achievable.

“The problems we’ve identified in studying COVID about where our weaknesses are from a public health standpoint and our infrastructure are all things that could be rectified with good planning and good policy making,” he said.

Gottlieb said he wrote the book to look beyond the political narrative in what when wrong and look more at the structural features of government where there are weaknesses. He said he thought at this point Congress would be discussing how to better prepare.

In his speech, he outlined what it looks like to better prepare for the future and looking at public health from the lens of national security.

In his book, Gottlieb detailed how the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was not the best organization to lead the fight against the COVID pandemic. The CDC is more of a retrospective organization, he said, and the nation needed an agency with the ability to design and deploy diagnostic tests, the ability to deploy vaccination sites and the ability to gather information and provide real-time analytics.

“That’s not the CDC’s culture, it’s not their ethos, it’s not their capability,” he said.

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