What to know about the antiviral drug Paxlovid

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California Governor Gavin Newsom has tested positive for COVID-19 and is taking Paxlovid. Here’s what the experts say about the drug.

Fabian Sommer/picture alliance/dpa/AP Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom was prescribed Paxlovid after being tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, his office said.

“The Governor has also received a prescription for Paxlovid, the antiviral that has been shown to be effective against COVID-19, and will begin his 5-day regimen immediately,” the May 28 statement read.

The Food and Drug Administration first issued a emergency use authorization for Paxlovid in December.

“This authorization provides a new tool to fight COVID-19 at a crucial time in the pandemic as new variants emerge and promises to make antiviral treatment more accessible to patients who are at high risk of progression to COVID-19. severe,” Dr. Patrizia said. Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said at the time of the drug’s approval.

When the drug was studied, researchers tried to test whether the drug prevented hospitalizations in patients at high risk of hospitalization, said Dr. Tara Vijayan, who works in the division of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine from UCLA, to McClatchy News.

“And what they found was that it actually reduced the risk of hospitalization by 89%,” she said.

Here are three things to know about Paxlovid.

What is Paxlovid and how does it work?

Paxlovid is an antiviral therapy intended to treat mild to moderate COVID-19, Dr. Michelle Hormozian, clinical coordinator and pharmacist at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, told McClatchy News. It consists of two different oral antivirals: nirmatrelvir and ritonavir.

“One of the drugs [nirmatrelvir]it’s actually a COVID protease inhibitor, and that means it basically prevents COVID viral replication,” Hormozian said.

The second drug, ritonavir, works to block the metabolism of the first drug so the body can maintain sufficient levels of nirmatrelvir to function properly, Hormozian said.

COVID-19 positive patients who are prescribed Paxlovid will take it twice a day for five days, according to Hormozian.

Patients, depending on their medical history and current medications, will take one or two nirmatrelvir tablets and one ritonavir tablet, Vijayan said.

Some potential side effects of the drug may include altered taste, upset stomach or diarrhea, increased blood pressure or muscle pain, according to Hormozian.

Who can take Paxlovid?

Paxlovid is intended to be taken by COVID-19 positive patients who are most at risk for hospitalization, Hormozian said. Patients should take Paxlovid within five days of the onset of their symptoms.

“So it’s not used for prevention. It is not used for patients who may have been exposed but do not test positive or those who are asymptomatic,” Hormozian said.

The drug is prescribed for those at higher risk of developing more severe COVID-19, Hormozian said. Doctors will look for other conditions that put patients at higher risk, including diabetes, chronic lung disease, such as asthma, or being immunocompromised.

To get prescribed the drug, a doctor will review a patient’s medical history, including reviewing the medications the patient is taking, to determine if the drug is right for the patient, according to Hormozian.

To take Paxlovid, a patient must be at least 12 years old and weigh more than 40 kilograms, or about 88 pounds, Hormozian said.

“But I would say that younger people in general who are not on any medication or who don’t have chronic health conditions should not take Paxlovid,” Vijayan said.

What about the COVID rebound?

In some patients, doctors saw a rebound of COVID after completing their prescribed dose of Paxlovid, Hormozian said.

“Some patients test negative after completing Paxlovid, and then later, around day eight, they test positive again,” Hormozian said.

If a patient tests positive after completing Paxlovid and feels symptomatic, they should no longer be prescribed Paxlovid, Vijayan said.

“The main goal of this drug is to avoid hospitalization,” Vijayan said. “It’s not about actually reducing the number of symptom days you have.”

Patients who test positive again should self-isolate, however, Vijayan said.

Despite potential for COVID rebound, Vijayan urges patients to consider Paxlovid.

“It’s a very good drug, and people shouldn’t avoid it if they’re at high risk for hospitalization,” she said. “They shouldn’t avoid taking it because they’re worried about rebound symptoms.”

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