While much of the focus in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic was on creating vaccines to help prevent serious disease and infection, companies also worked to develop drugs that can help. populations at risk to avoid hospitalization or even death from the virus. .
The drug that has seen the most success since being given emergency clearance by the CDC is Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment, which works similarly to the popular antiviral drug Tamiflu.
So how does Paxlovid work? How long do you need to take it? Who is even eligible to have it prescribed?
Here’s what we know about the treatment.
How does the drug work?
According to Yale Medicine, a full treatment cycle of Paxlovid is taken over a period of five days and requires the patient to take a total of 30 tablets, or six per day.
A patient should take three pills at a time and does so twice a day.
Two of the pills are a medicine called “nirmatrelvir”. This drug, according to the CDC and Yale, inhibits the production of an enzyme that the COVID virus needs to create certain key particles.
The third pill, known as ‘ritonavir’, helps increase the drug’s effectiveness by slowing down its metabolism by the liver, allowing it to stay in the body longer.
As new, highly transmissible omicron subvariants spread across the United States, in some cases evading immunity from previous infections, many are wondering if they are eligible for a second COVID booster and, if so, when ?
How long should Paxlovid be taken?
Similar to Tamiflu, Paxlovid is designed to be taken within the first five days of the onset of symptoms.
According to doctors, taking it after this point harms the effectiveness of the drug.
How effective is it?
The Illinois Department of Public Health cited studies that suggest Paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 89%.
According to Yale Medicine, this number comes from studies of patients who took the drug within three days of symptom onset.
Who is eligible for treatments?
The FDA has cleared Paxlovid for anyone age 12 or older who is at high risk for serious disease.
These groups include people aged 65 and over, or who have underlying conditions like cancer, diabetes, obesity or others.
A recent EUA amendment also allows state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe the drug, but officials are still urging the public to see their primary care physician or visit a testing site to treat (whose locations can be found here), as pharmacists can only prescribe the drug in limited situations.
Hospitalizations are on the rise in several states after an increase in COVID-19 infections as Omicron subvariants spread. And as Google search trends tell us, interest in boosters is high right now. “It’s extremely important to be boosted now because we’re in the middle of this BA.5 wave,” Dr. Aditi Nerurkar of Harvard Medical School told LX News Now. Dr. Nerurkar brings us depth and context on the most researched questions on this topic.
Does Paxlovid work against Omicron?
According to Pfizer, Paxlovid is effective against omicron variants, including BA.5.
Are other options available?
In the event that Paxlovid is not immediately available, the FDA has also granted an EUA for Merck’s Molnupiravir treatment. This treatment is used in more limited situations, and officials only advise patients to use it if Paxlovid is not available.
Monoclonal antibody treatments can also be used in patients at risk or who have more severe cases of the virus. These treatments are given intravenously or as multiple injections and can be used for up to a week after symptoms appear.
A map of equipment offering a variety of treatment options can be found here.
Are there any side effects?
According to Yale Medicine, most people who take the drug do not experience serious side effects, although patients are advised to stop taking the treatment if they experience symptoms common to an allergic reaction, including hives. , difficulty swallowing, tightness in the throat, or rash. Nausea, diarrhea, muscle aches and abdominal pain have also been reported.