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Paxlovid, the antiviral drug designed to reduce the risk of death and hospitalization from COVID-19, may also help cut the chances a person will develop long COVID, a study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shows.
People who took Paxlovid had a 26% reduced risk of developing symptoms of long COVID such as fatigue and shortness of breath, according to the preprint study that hasn't yet been peer-reviewed.
Researchers looked at the medical records of 56,340 people in the VA system who tested positive for COVID from March 1, 2022, to June 30, 2022. All of them had at least one risk factor for long COVID, such as being over 60, a smoker, or having had cancer.
Within the first 5 days of infection, 9,217 of the patients were given Paxlovid, the Pfizer-made antiviral. The patients who got Paxlovid had a 26% reduced chance of developing long COVID symptoms including heart disease, deep vein thrombosis, liver disease, acute kidney disease, muscle pain, and neurocognitive impairment, the study said.
Taking Paxlovid also resulted in a 48% reduced risk of death and a 30% reduced risk of post-acute hospitalization, the study said.
"Paxlovid reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 in the acute phase, and now, we have evidence that it can help reduce the risk of long COVID," Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, chief of research and development at the VA St. Louis Health Care System who led the study, said in a VA news release. "This treatment could be an important asset to address the serious issue of long COVID."
The federal government authorized Paxlovid last December to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and in kids ages 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds.
Researchers said the study had several limitations, such as most of the participants being older white males who were only treated through the VA system. The study only looked at 12 long COVID symptoms, though many others have been reported. The researchers also noted that "the real-world effectiveness" of the drug may change as new COVID variants emerge.
MedRxiv: "Nirmatrelvir and the Risk of Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19."
U.S Department of Veterans Affairs: "Paxlovid reduces risk of Long COVID."
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Cite this: Paxlovid Cuts the Risk of Long COVID: VA Study - Medscape - Nov 07, 2022.