COVID-19 Antiviral Drugs, Defined | Effectively+Good


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Late final yr, the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed the primary oral antiviral remedy for COVID-19. The emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-produced drug, Paxlovid, marked a big turning level in nationwide efforts to combat the virus.

“At this time’s authorization introduces the primary remedy for COVID-19 that’s within the type of a tablet that’s taken orally—a significant step ahead within the combat towards this international pandemic,” stated Patrizia Cavazzoni, MD, the director of the FDA’s Middle for Drug Analysis and Analysis, in a assertion final yr.

Nonetheless, this encouraging information might need left you with plenty of lingering questions: What’s the objective of Paxlovid? Who’s licensed to take it? What are the restrictions of the drug? Beneath, Lee Nguyen, PharmD, affiliate medical professor of the Division of Scientific Pharmacy Observe on the UC Irvine Faculty of Well being Sciences, solutions your COVID-19 antiviral tablet questions.

What are COVID-19 antiviral tablets?

Per the Mayo Clinic, antiviral drugs are medicine that help the physique in combating off harmful viruses. Antiviral drugs may reduce signs and shorten the period of a given virus. At the moment, there are two such medicine licensed for the remedy of COVID-19.

Paxlovid is a mix of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir tablets co-packaged for oral use. “Paxlovid has three tablets which can be taken twice each day for 5 days. Two of the tablets are nirmatrelvir and one is ritonavir,” explains Dr. Nguyen. Nirmatrelvir inhibits a SARS-CoV-2 protein to cease the virus from replicating, whereas ritonavir slows down nirmatrelvir’s breakdown so it stays within the physique for longer.

“The second product made by Merck is named molnupiravir and doesn’t have a model identify within the U.S.,” says Dr. Nguyen. Molnupiravir works by creating errors within the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ genetic code, which retains the virus from replicating additional. “Molnupiravir is run as 4 200 milligram capsules taken orally each 12 hours for 5 days, for a complete of 40 capsules. Molnupiravir just isn’t licensed to be used for longer than 5 consecutive days,” says the FDA, it is also not licensed to be used on anybody below 18 years previous.

Whereas each drugs are used to forestall the replication of the COVID-19 virus, they’re not an alternative to the COVID-19 vaccine and booster photographs, they usually’re not appropriate for everybody.

Who’re COVID-19 antiviral tablets for?

“These drugs can have the best advantages in sufferers at excessive danger for illness development from mild-moderate to significantly ailing. These sufferers will be described as older people or these with medical circumstances corresponding to diabetes, most cancers, or different immunocompromising circumstances,” says Dr. Nguyen.

Each Paxloid and molnupiravir should be prescribed by your physician, who will decide which drug you get based mostly in your age and weight. “Getting a COVID-19 check as quickly as doable is a crucial course of in figuring out the necessity for Paxlovid or molnupiravir,” says Dr. Nguyen. So seek the advice of together with your physician if you happen to’ve contracted COVID-19 and really feel you might be a part of an at-risk group.

The potential pitfalls of COVID-19 antiviral tablets

Whereas antiviral tablets will be useful in providing your physique some much-needed backup whereas combating COVID-19, these medicine will not be with out pitfalls—the primary being timing. “I feel one of many limitations of those antiviral tablets just isn’t the treatment themselves, however technique of beginning [treatment],” explains Dr. Nguyen. “The window to start out these drugs is comparatively brief: 5 days from the onset of signs. Sufferers want to acknowledge that they may have COVID-19 within the first few days and get examined.” Add up the time it takes to obtain a constructive COVID-19 check, get an appointment together with your major care supplier, and seek out a pharmacy that carries the treatment, and you might properly miss that window. So it is best to behave quick if you happen to’re in an at-risk group and suspect you will have COVID-19.

One other main issue to think about is drug interactions. “If sufferers are taking different drugs, there’s a probability that ritonavir will enhance these drugs too. Sufferers taking blood thinners—anticoagulants—corresponding to rivaroxaban or “Xarelto” are at elevated danger of bleeding if taken with Paxlovid. The present suggestion is to keep away from taking each drugs on the similar time,” explains Dr. Nguyen. So ensure you’re upfront together with your physician about all of your drugs.

Lengthy story brief: COVID-19 antiviral tablets

As of proper now, there are two antiviral tablets licensed to fight the worst results of COVID-19: Paclovid and molnupiravir. Individuals at average to excessive danger of great sickness—like immunocompromised and older individuals—will profit most from programs of COVID-19 antiviral tablets. Nonetheless, it is vital to seek the advice of your physician as quickly as doable and be upfront about your different prescriptions.

Oh, and simply to reiterate: The vaccine is essential to combatting the worst results of COVID-19. “Probably the greatest methods to forestall extreme problems related to COVID-19 corresponding to hospitalization is to get vaccinated in case you are eligible and observe good hand hygiene,” says Dr. Nguyen.

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