Now available at most pharmacies locally
As more people continue to test positive for COVID-19 and its variants locally and across the country, Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill, introduced on the market in December 2021, is fast becoming the treatment of choice, which some have referred to as the antiviral pill offering hope for “zero COVID deaths.”
Who is Eligible for Paxlovid?
Paxlovid – which was recently prescribed to Vice President Kamala Harris when she was diagnosed with COVID-19 – is an investigational oral medicine used to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children 12 years of age and older weighing at least 88 pounds, who have tested positive for the virus and are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.
“There was some confusion about which patients were eligible to receive Paxlovid when it first became available, and patients had difficulty finding pharmacies which could fill their prescriptions. However, there are now state and federal campaigns aimed at both the public and prescribers to raise awareness and improve access to the drug, which is now readily available at most pharmacies,” said Dr. Armando Paez, chief, Infectious Disease Division, Baystate Health.
Massachusetts residents can find out if they are eligible for Paxlovid via a telehealth visit through Mass.Gov. If you are eligible, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will arrange for pickup at your local pharmacy or free overnight delivery. Visit mass.gov to learn more and set up a telehealth visit.
What is Paxlovid and is it Effective?
Several factors make Paxlovid such a welcome addition to a growing list of treatments in battling the deadly disease, which has now taken more than 1 million American lives.
“Paxlovid is an oral combination medication consisting of three pills taken twice a day at home for five days. This should be started within 5 days of the start of COVID-19 symptoms by patients who have risk factors for severe infection. It is readily accessible in many retail pharmacies and more convenient than others available and equally effective outpatient therapies such as Remdesivir or Bebtelovimab (monoclonal antibody), which are given by infusion,” said Dr. Paez, who noted Pfizer also has stated that it is effective against the predominantly circulating variant.
“The New England Journal of Medicine reported in February that the clinical trial of Paxlovid resulted in an 89% reduction in the risk of hospitalization and death,” he added.
What are the Side Effects?
According to Pfizer, possible side effects of Paxlovid include allergic reactions, liver problems, resistance to HIV medicines, altered sense of taste, diarrhea, high blood pressure, and muscle aches. There may be significant interactions with several common medications taken concurrently, and the dose needs to be adjusted in those with reduced kidney function which should be discussed with your primary care provider before taking this drug.
Once again, the key messages to remember about Paxlovid are:
- The drug should be taken by individuals who have mild to moderate COVID-19 infection and have risk factors for severe illness.
- It should be taken within 5 days of symptoms.
- It is highly effective against the predominantly circulating variant.
- The drug will need a prescription, but is available at many retail pharmacies.
If you think you are having COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are mild, take a home-based test or go for a lab test. If you qualify, you should not wait until you get sicker before asking your doctor to prescribe Paxlovid.