The success of Merck’s antiviral—and other COVID-19 pills in development—may depend on how quickly people start taking them

In the not-too-distant future, you may be able to walk into a doctor’s office, get tested for SARS-CoV-2, and walk out with pills or a prescription if you end up testing positive for the virus.

“Finally, we have another potential tool,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said Oct. 6 at a White House briefing, “a promising new oral drug that people could take at home soon after COVID-19 to reduce the risk of severe outcomes.”