As Paxlovid remains one of the few treatments currently available to fight COVID-19, interest in the antiviral drug continues to grow, with much attention paid to its side effects.
Most people who take the drug do not experience serious side effects, according to Yale Medicine, but several common side effects have been noted.
Muscle pain, high blood pressure, and diarrhea are possible side effects in patients. Those who experience symptoms common to an allergic reaction, including hives, difficulty swallowing, tightness in the throat or a rash, are advised to stop taking the treatment.
Recently, a coined term “Paxlovid mouth” has also been circulating among patients who experience a metallic or bitter taste in their mouth soon after taking the drug.
Shivanjali Shankaran, MD, infectious disease specialist at RUSH, said about 5.6% of people who took Paxlovid in one study reported changes in the taste of their mouth, or what she called “dysgeusia.” “.
Chicago’s top doctor said the nasty taste usually goes away “when you finish your course of Paxlovid.”
“So you usually take it for a few days and then it goes away. It’s not long lasting,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a press conference later. early. “It’s not dangerous, but it can be unpleasant for some people and…if people take Paxlovid, you know, try taking it with gum or mint. Some people also take zinc – they think it can sometimes help with ‘Paxlovid mouth.'”
Arwady said the change has nothing to do with the loss of taste or smell that can sometimes accompany COVID infection and the two conditions are unrelated.
“It’s just a short-term side effect that about one in 20 people who take Paxlovid may have,” she said. “That’s no reason not to take Paxlovid, okay? If you’re someone who is recommended to take Paxlovid, take Paxlovid.”
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were both prescribed the drug after contracting COVID and later experienced rebound cases of the virus. However, health officials widely state that a rebound case can occur whether or not a person received Paxlovid.
If you’ve recently contracted COVID and think treatment may be an option for you, here’s everything you need to know, including how it works and how effective it is.
How does Paxlovid work?
According to Yale Medicine, a full treatment cycle of Paxlovid is taken over a period of five days and requires the patient to take a total of 30 tablets, or six per day.
A patient should take three pills at a time and does so twice a day.
Two of the pills are a drug known as “nirmatrelvir”. This drug, according to the CDC and Yale, inhibits the production of an enzyme that the COVID virus needs to create certain key particles.
The third pill, known as ‘ritonavir’, helps increase the drug’s effectiveness by slowing down its metabolism by the liver, allowing it to stay in the body longer.
How long should Paxlovid be taken?
Similar to Tamiflu, Paxlovid is designed to be taken within the first five days of the onset of symptoms.
Taking it after this point harms the effectiveness of the drug, doctors say.
How effective is it?
The Illinois Department of Public Health cited studies that suggest Paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 89%.
According to Yale Medicine, this number comes from studies of patients who took the drug within three days of symptom onset.
Who is eligible for treatments?
The FDA has cleared Paxlovid for anyone age 12 or older who is at high risk for serious disease.
These groups include people aged 65 and over, or who have underlying conditions like cancer, diabetes, obesity or others.
A recent EUA amendment also allows state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe the drug, but authorities are still urging the public to consult their primary care physician or visit a testing site to treat (whose locations can be found here), as pharmacists can only prescribe the drug in limited situations.
Does Paxlovid work against Omicron?
According to Pfizer, Paxlovid is effective against omicron variants, including BA.5.
Is COVID rebound something that occurs primarily in patients who have taken Paxlovid?
According to several studies and government reports, a person could potentially experience a COVID rebound with or without taking the antiviral Paxlovid.
According to the CDC, rebound can occur “regardless of Paxlovid treatment and regardless of vaccination status.”
Although no large-scale studies have been done, it appears that people who were previously treated with Paxlovid show “mild illness” from their rebound cases, according to the CDC.
In response to the studies, the Food and Drug Administration asked Pfizer to test the effects of additional treatment of the antiviral in patients experiencing “rebound” cases. The data will be due by September 30 next year, according to the FDA.
Are other options available?
In the event that Paxlovid is not immediately available, the FDA has also granted an EUA for Merck’s Molnupiravir treatment. This treatment is used in more limited situations, and officials only advise patients to use it if Paxlovid is not available.
Monoclonal antibody treatments can also be used in patients at risk or who have more severe cases of the virus. These treatments are given intravenously or as multiple injections and can be used for up to a week after symptoms appear.
A map of equipment offering a variety of treatment options can be found here.