Paxlovid is a type of antiviral medication that is used to treat moderate to severe illness associated with COVID-19.
Currently, Paxlovid is considered an investigational medicine as it is still being studied. The FDA has approved this antiviral drug for certain patients under an “emergency use authorization”.
Paxlovid has a significant number of drug-to-drug interactions which is why it is important for health care providers to know of any and all medications patients are taking, including prescribed and over-the-counter, before they prescribe Paxlovid.
Ritonavir-Boosted Nirmatrelvir (Paxlovid) is an oral antiviral medication used to treat COVID-19. Created by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Paxlovid has been shown to reduce the risk of severe illness associated with coronavirus in clinical trials.
Currently, Paxlovid is an investigational medicine because it is still being studied. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use authorization of Paxlovid for adults and children ages 12 and older who test positive for COVID-19. Paxlovid is recommended for high-risk patients who have a greater chance of severe disease that causes hospitalization and death.
This article will explain the basics of Paxlovid including who should take Paxlovid, who should avoid taking Paxlovid, risk factors, side effects, and more.
What is Paxlovid?
Paxlovid is an oral antiviral medication used to treat COVID-19 created by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Antiviral drugs are a group of medications that help the body fight off viruses. In this case, Paxlovid works by targeting the SARS-CoV‑2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) from multiplying in the body, lowering the amount of the virus within the body, or helping the immune system.
Paxlovid has been shown to reduce the risk of severe disease in clinical trials. Paxlovid has current FDA approval under an emergency use authorization.
Note: Learn more about the Pfizer clinical trial at this resource.
Who Should Take Paxlovid?
Paxlovid is recommended for adults and children ages 12 and up (weighing at least 88 pounds) who are at a higher risk for progressing to severe illness as a result of a COVID-19 infection.
Who Should Not Take Paxlovid?
Those who should not take Paxlovid include those allergic to any ingredients in Paxlovid. Consult a doctor before starting Paxlovid if:
You have allergies
You’re battling liver or kidney disease
You’re pregnant (or plan to become pregnant)
You are battling serious illness(es)
Paxlovid Drug-To-Drug Interactions
Paxlovid has a significant number of drug-to-drug interactions. Visit this resource to check which medications have adverse interactions with Paxlovid.
Paxlovid Side Effects
Possible side effects associated with Paxlovid include allergic reactions, liver issues, resistance to HIV medications, and more. All patients should speak with their provider prior to starting Paxlovid due to the possibility of experiencing side effects. While Paxlovid is usually well-tolerated, some people do experience these side effects and should contact their doctor immediately if they experience them.
Severe allergic reactions can occur in those taking Paxlovid. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
Struggling to swallow or breathe
Swelling of face, mouth, or lips
Liver problems are a potential side effect of taking Paxlovid. Patients who experience symptoms of liver issues should talk to a health care provider right away. Such symptoms include:
Loss of appetite
Resistance to HIV Medications
For those with untreated HIV, Paxlovid may lead to certain HIV medications not working as well in the future. If you’re concerned about having HIV, speak with your provider about getting tested and figuring out an action plan.
Additional Side Effects
In addition to the aforementioned, other potential side effects of Paxlovid include:
Altered sense of taste
High blood pressure
General malaise/feeling unwell
Paxlovid Rebound Infections
Rebound infections, meaning contracting COVID-19 again, are possible for patients treated with Paxlovid. The rebound effect has been found to occur in some patients who have taken a full course of Paxlovid and start experiencing symptoms again between two and eight days later.
Symptoms of a rebound infection align with typical COVID symptoms such as:
Fever and chills
Shortness of breath
Muscle or body aches
A new loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea and vomiting
How To Take Paxlovid
Treatment guidelines for Paxlovid are as follows:
300 mg of Paxlovid orally twice daily for five days for mild to moderate symptoms who are at high risk for severe disease progression
Paxlovid should be administered within five days of symptom onset
Paxlovid was created before Omicron and following sub variants but initial studies show that it works against variants.
How To Protect Yourself From COVID-19
The pandemic is not over. As such, disease control measures should still be taken to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Some such strategies include:
Staying home if sick
Wearing a mask in public places
Social distancing when possible
Regular hand washing
Covering coughs and sneezes
Getting vaccinated (vaccinated patients have a lowered risk of severe COVID and death compared to unvaccinated patients)