There’s a drug that can treat COVID-19 and reduce the virus’s risk for those who need it most. But a lot of people aren’t aware of this.
A drug that dramatically reduces the risk of COVID-19 is now in circulation for everyone. Paxlovid has been around for a while, yet people still don’t know of its existence or are confused by its effects.
Paxlovid is a Pfizer drug and it’s been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization for COVID-19 by 90%. It must be taken within five days of displaying initial COVID-19 symptoms, meaning that, unlike vaccines, it’s not preventative. As of this week, the drug is now widely available, found in pharmacies across states.
Paxlovid was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December of last year. Despite its high effectiveness, in April, NPR reported that the White House was designing a plan to get people to learn more about the drug, including making it more available in pharmacies.
Newsday reports that a lot of pharmacy workers don’t know the drug or have had trouble receiving it. “Only a minority of the people who might benefit are getting it at the present time,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell Health, who’s been prescribing the drugs to his patients.
While the drug is recommended for people over the age of 65 or patients with comorbidities, it’s up to the physician’s discretion whether or not to prescribe it. Despite targeting a subset of people who are normally at higher risk for worse COVID-19 infections, there’s still a lot of reticence from people who don’t trust the drug because they’ve never heard of it.
NPR explained that the process of getting the drugs was complicated, especially since it needs to be taken within five days of initial COVID-19 symptoms. “So it is a race to get a COVID test, get someone to prescribe it, find a pharmacy that actually carries it and then start taking it,” said White House correspondent Tamara Keith.
The Paxlovid treatment consists of taking two drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, twice a day for a period of five days. Potential side effects include an altered sense of taste, diarrhea, increased blood pressure, and muscle pains. It’s also a drug that could interact with other medications, making it important for doctors to ensure that their patients aren’t taking any other drugs that could cause further complications.
Paxlovid is not the only medication capable of treating COVID-19, but it is the simplest one. While people can get monoclonal antibodies, which are antibodies made in a lab, these must be administered by a healthcare worker through an injection or an infusion.