Exploring Paxlovid as a Treatment Option for COVID-19

John Whyte, MD


May 12, 2022

Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

JOHN WHYTE: Hello. I'm Dr. John Whyte. I'm the chief medical officer at WebMD.

You test positive for COVID, and you're not feeling well. What do you do? Specifically, what's the role of antivirals?

You might have heard about a drug called Paxlovid. Well, Paxlovid is a pill that you take by mouth, as opposed to some other therapies that are injections or infusions. It's indicated if you're 12 years of age or older, you weigh at least 88 pounds, and you test positive for coronavirus, and you're at high risk for hospitalization.

What does that mean? That means you either have certain underlying conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or obesity, or you're an older adult. Again, it's an oral pill. You take three pills a day, twice a day for 5 days, a total of 30 pills.

It's actually two separate medications, Ritonavir and Nirmatrelvir. They're designed to stop the virus from replicating. That's why it's called an antiviral. The data showed that participants in a trial who were given Paxlovid were 89% less likely to develop severe illness and death, compared to trial participants who received a placebo.

Here's a key point: You have to take Paxlovid within 5 days of developing symptoms. Most of the damage caused by COVID is done within the first few days. So taking it more than 5 days after symptoms is not going to help much.

It does require a prescription, but here's some good news: It's free. You don't have to pay anything, whether or not you have insurance.

Every drug can have side effects. Most people seem to tolerate it well. Some common side effects can include nausea, diarrhea, muscle aches, skin rash, or high blood pressure. If you have kidney issues, there may need to be adjustments of the dose.

The federal government launched a nationwide Test to Treat initiative that allows you to get tested. And if you test positive and treatments are appropriate for you, you receive a prescription from a health care provider and have your prescription filled all at one location. These one-stop Test to Treat sites are available at hundreds of locations nationwide. Google “Test to Treat,” and you'll be directed to the site. Thanks for watching.

This interview originally appeared on WebMD on May 12, 2022

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