SPRINGFIELD — As more people continue to test positive for COVID-19 and its variants locally and across the country, Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill, introduced on the market in December 2021, is fast becoming the treatment of choice, which some have referred to as the antiviral pill offering hope for “zero COVID deaths.”
Paxlovid, which was recently prescribed to Vice President Camila Harris when she was diagnosed with COVID-19, is an investigational oral medicine used to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children 12 years of age and older weighing at least 88 pounds, who have tested positive for the virus and are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.
“There was some confusion about which patients were eligible to receive Paxlovid when it first became available, and patients had difficulty finding pharmacies which could fill their prescriptions,” said Dr. Armando Paez, chief, Infectious Disease Division, Baystate Health. “However, there are now state and federal campaigns aimed at both the public and prescribers to raise awareness and improve access to the drug, which is now readily available at most pharmacies.”
Several factors make Paxlovid such a welcome addition to a growing list of treatments in battling the deadly disease, which has now taken more than 1 million American lives.
“Paxlovid is an oral combination medication consisting of three pills taken twice a day at home for five days. This should be started within 5 days of the start of COVID-19 symptoms by patients who have risk factors for severe infection,” said Paez. “It is readily accessible in many retail pharmacies and more convenient than others available and equally effective outpatient therapies such as Remdesivir or Bebtelovimab,(monoclonal antibody) which are given by infusion.”
Paez noted that said Pfizer also has stated that it is effective against the predominantly circulating variant.
“The New England Journal of Medicine reported in February that the clinical trial of Paxlovid resulted in an 89% reduction in the risk of hospitalization and death,” he added.
According to Pfizer, possible side effects of Paxlovid include allergic reactions, liver problems, resistance to HIV medicines, altered sense of taste, diarrhea, high blood pressure, and muscle aches. There may be significant interactions with several common medications taken concurrently, and the dose needs to be adjusted in those with reduced kidney function which should be discussed with your primary care provider before taking this drug.