The New COVID Antiviral Pills: What You Need to Know
What you need to know about the new COVID antiviral pills
In the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, we now have a new weapon in our arsenal: two antiviral medications recently authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer, one of the pharmaceutical companies that developed and made available an FDA-approved coronavirus vaccine, has introduced its antiviral pill, Paxlovid. A second antiviral, molnupiravir, has been made available by Merck.
As with other antiviral pills, the new treatment medications are designed to help prevent severe illness in people who have tested positive for coronavirus. In a study of the treatments’ efficacy, Paxlovid was shown to reduce the incidence of severe disease by as much as 88%. Reducing the incidence of severe disease by 30%, molnupiravir is less effective but may provide an alternative when prescribing Paxlovid is not possible.
Since their emergency authorization in December 2021, many Americans who have tested positive have been clamoring for the pills. However, they’re not for everyone – and supply has been limited. Here’s what you need to know.
Prescribing guidelines limit who qualifies. Not everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 will receive a formal prescription for molnupiravir or Paxlovid. Instead, physicians are more likely to reserve their use for those at higher risk for severe infection, such as those 65 or older or with underlying health issues like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or obesity.
They are intended to reduce hospitalizations. With the above guidelines in mind, the main goal of the new antiviral treatments is to keep those at highest risk out of the hospital, so that our healthcare system can function its best to care for everyone. Because individuals who are unlikely to experience severe infection, such as young, healthy people, are far less likely to require hospitalization due to coronavirus infection, they are less likely to be candidates for the new pills.
They come with contraindications. This means that people who have certain conditions or take other medications cannot be prescribed molnupiravir or Paxlovid, due to their risk of side effects. This includes people with certain kidney or liver problems or with HIV, for Paxlovid – and pregnant women, for molnupiravir. The pills are also not authorized for children under 12.
If, after reading this, you conclude that you won’t be eligible for the new treatments, you should know that treatment availability and prescribing guidelines can always change. For this reason, you should always seek treatment from a physician if you experience any of the following symptoms, regardless of your risk for severe COVID-19 disease:
- Fever or chills
- Cough, sore throat or runny nose
- Dizziness, confusion, lightheadedness or fatigue
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Loss of taste or smell
At Avail Hospital, we can provide coronavirus testing– without the long wait times – so be sure to visit us when you experience COVID-19 symptoms. We’re here for you when you need us, always.