Medical professional writing a prescription

May 26, 2022

A promising drug for COVID-19 treatment is Paxlovid. In fact, for those vulnerable to being severely sick, this antiviral pill can lower their chances of being hospitalized or dying.

Here’s what you need to know about the pill.

What is Paxlovid and how effective is it?

It’s actually a combination of two other prescription antiviral drugs: nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. And, like peanut butter and jelly, one plus one are better.

A five-day course of Pfizer’s drug was found to be 90% more effective at keeping the most vulnerable out of the hospital or funeral home.

But there is a catch: You need to start it within five days of testing positive for COVID-19 for it to be effective.

Alas, there is no scientific proof yet that Paxlovid can cure or improve the lingering symptoms known as long COVID.

How do I get Paxlovid?

Your health care provider and test-to-treat clinics can prescribe the antiviral pills.

Get tested as soon as you have signs of the virus, such as fever, chills, sore throat, cough, fatigue, congestion, nausea or diarrhea.

You may test negative for COVID-19 at first, so ask your doctor how often you should be retested and where you can get fast access to the medication.

Who should get Paxlovid?

There’s some debate about whether Paxlovid is needed unless you’re in danger of serious repercussions from Sars-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

Obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart or lung disease, taking chemotherapy and being unvaccinated or over 65 can make you more vulnerable to the virus’ worst effects.

Those unlikely to get gravely ill are less likely to be prescribed Paxlovid, so you might want to talk with your doctor while you’re healthy about whether you or your children, age 12 and above, are candidates for the drug should you get COVID-19.

Prescribers need to know what else you take, including supplements, as some may interact with the drug. These include cholesterol-lowering statins, birth control pills and some sleep or seizure meds. Anyone with weak kidney or liver function should not take Paxlovid.

What is the ‘rebound effect’?

Some people wind up getting COVID-19 again—about 10 to 14 days after recovering. The second bout or rebound effect is uncommon. Symptoms tend to be coughing or a sore throat that are no worse than for a cold.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there’s no benefit to repeating Paxlovid treatment if you relapse.

But the medical community, including the FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, still urge use of Paxlovid for those most in danger.

As for why a small group gets ill again, it’s not yet known. Pfizer’s research was based on the benefits of the drug duo versus the delta variant. Studies are underway to see whether the perks extend to the omicron variant or whether a longer course of Paxlovid would be worthwhile.

In the meantime, if you have COVID-19, isolate from others, including family until you test negative for the virus.

To safeguard you against Sars-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in the future?

Get vaccinated and then boostered at the interval your health care provider recommends. Also wear masks, avoid indoor crowds and wash or disinfect hands frequently. You may be sick of taking precautions, but they truly can keep you from getting sick.

The information in this article is accurate as of May 26, 2022. It was clinically reviewed by Binita Patel.

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