All About PAXLOVID™, the Antiviral Treatment for COVID-19
By Guest Contributor Abimbola Farinde, PharmD
In the midst of a surge of COVID-19 cases, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, medical advances may help shift the tide. One of the most recently approved treatment options for COVID-19 is Pfizer’s PAXLOVID™ (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets).
PAXLOVID™ is approved under an EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) by the FDA. An early study that Pfizer conducted showed that PAXLOVID™ was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%. Here’s what you need to know about this new, investigational medicine.
What is the COVID-19 Pill, PAXLOVID™?
PAXLOVID™ is the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 approved by the FDA under an EUA. It is only available as a prescription medication. The FDA’s EUA fact sheet for PAXLOVID™ includes more detail for patients, parents, and caregivers. PAXLOVID™ is comprised of two medicines: nimatrelver and ritonavir. The whole course of PAXLOVID™ consists of two pink tablets of nimatrelvir with one white tablet of ritonavir by mouth twice a day for five days. All three tablets are to be taken at the same time. Like other oral medications, PAXLOVID™ can be taken at home. This sets PAXLOVID™ apart from other COVID-19 treatments that require an in-person hospital setting, such as intravenous (IV) medications.
How does PAXLOVID™ work?
PAXLOVID™ works by combining two active ingredients to prevent the breakdown of the proteins that allow a virus to make copies of itself and reproduce. This breakdown of proteins prevents the coronavirus from multiplying after a person is infected, keeping the amount of virus low and assisting the immune system with fighting the infection. When compared to other antivirals, PAXLOVID™ is under the drug class of a protease inhibitor, which affects a virus’s ability to function.
Who is PAXLOVID™ for?
Under the EUA, PAXLOVID™ is for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children who are 12 years of age and older who weigh at least 40kg, or about 88 lbs. They should have tested positive for the virus. These individuals also need to be at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19, which can include hospitalization or death. PAXLOVID™ should be given to a person after receiving a diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of showing symptoms. PAXLOVID™ is not to be given as prevention of COVID-19 or as after exposure prevention of COVID-19.
Why supplies may be limited
The supplies of PAXLOVID™ may be limited because the U.S. government distributes the medication to state health officials, who then decide where to send it. The current amount of PAXLOVID™ is a limited quantity, but the U.S. government is ordering more doses so that this medication can get to as many vulnerable people as possible. If you’re interested in seeing if PAXLOVID™ is available near you, Alpha’s PAXLOVID™ locator is a useful tool that lets you search based on city, zip code, or county.
The approval of PAXLOVID™ under an EUA is another significant step in fighting COVID-19 because patients can take it at the first signs of an infection. It provides another tool for healthcare providers to treat patients at high risk of being hospitalized or dying from the virus. PAXLOVID™ has also opened the door for the approval of other antiviral pills. In the future, there is the possibility for other oral antiviral medications to be approved to provide different options for COVID-19 treatments.
How can I get treatment for COVID-19?
If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and are at risk for severe illness, you may be eligible for PAXLOVID™. Alpha Medical offers online medical consultations and prescriptions for over 60 conditions, including COVID-19. To get started, you’ll complete an online consultation, and an Alpha Provider will work with you for your treatment plan. To begin an online consultation, visit Alpha’s website.
Abimbola Farinde, PhD, PharmD, is a professor of health care administration at Columbia Southern University in Orange Beach, Alabama.