Could the next tool to fight COVID-19 fit in the palm of your hand? On Dec. 22, 2021, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s pill to treat COVID-19. The federal government is stocking up on the pill, but initial supplies will likely be limited.
The investigational drug, known as PAXLOVID™, is designed to treat pediatric and adult patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for progressing to severe disease. The results of a Pfizer study showed PAXLOVID™ reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% when compared to a placebo.
Merck has developed a similar pill, known as molnupiravir, that received emergency use authorization from the FDA on Dec. 23, 2021. However, it is not authorized for use in patients under the age of 18 because it may impact bone and cartilage growth. The FDA recommends molnupiravir be used for patients at high risk of hospitalization of death from COVID-19 who do not have other treatment options available.
Treat versus prevent
Dr. Aquino stressed that PAXLOVID™ and molnupiravir are not preventive tools; they are ways of treating COVID-19 symptoms, similar to Tamiflu® for those suffering from the flu. PAXLOVID™ should be taken within three days of symptom onset, while molnupiravir should be taken within five.
“There will be a portion of people who these pills won’t work for,” Dr. Aquino said. “We are still going to see people get severely ill or die from COVID-19 after taking these medications. Getting vaccinated remains critical for preventing COVID-19.”
‘Another weapon in our arsenal’
While the pills may not work for everyone, they are convenient and easy to take, Dr. Aquino said. People with COVID-19 would take PAXLOVID™, which consists of three tablets, twice daily for five days. Molnupiravir, which consists of four tablets, is also taken twice daily for five days.
As more details are unveiled about these new options, Dr. Aquino suggested people remain cautiously optimistic.
“This is a great forward step in the fight against COVID-19, but it’s not going to be an answer for everyone,” Dr. Aquino said. “We still need to continue with caution. These pills are not fixes for COVID-19, but they are other weapons in our arsenal.”
As with any new medication, talk to your health care provider before taking PAXLOVID™ or molnupiravir, which may interact with other widely used medications such as statins, blood thinners, and hormonal contraceptives. The FDA's Patient Fact Sheet for Patients, Parents, and Caregivers offers more information.
Vaccines still give you the best shot at beating the virus, and Dr. Aquino points out, are more cost-effective than these expensive pills or treatment in a hospital.
At Baptist Health, we want to help keep our community informed about COVID-19. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit baptistjax.com/covid19vaccine. Click here to find a vaccination location near you.