Mayo experts encouraged by authorization of first pill to treat COVID-19

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Mayo Clinic

By Jason Howland

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization for a pill that can be taken at home to treat COVID-19. Paxlovid, which is made by Pfizer, is the first oral antiviral medication authorized to help people who are infected with COVID-19 before they are hospitalized.

COVID-19 experts at Mayo Clinic say this announcement adds a new tool for patients and providers in the fight against COVID-19.

“This is an important addition to our COVID-19 mitigation toolkit. This oral pill means easier access for patients and less burden on the health care system. And unlike monoclonal antibodies, it should retain efficacy against variants,” says Dr. Priya Sampathkumar, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

Anyone 12 and older who tests positive for COVID-19, weighs more than 88 pounds and is at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19 infection, including hospitalization and death, is eligible for this treatment. A health care provider must prescribe this treatment, and it should be initiated as soon as possible after a diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of symptom onset, according to the FDA.

“We are very thankful to have another medication to treat COVID-19. Paxlovid is a new oral antiviral medication that is a combination of two drugs that prevent the virus from multiplying in the body. This pill will be particularly helpful for people who are at risk for severe COVID-19, especially when given soon after mild to moderate symptoms,” says Dr. Abinash Virk, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist. “It comes at a particularly good time, given that we are anticipating a possible increase in hospitalizations and are at limited health care capacity.”

Pfizer recently reported that Paxlovid reduced hospitalizations and deaths by 89% among people at high risk if given within a few days of their first COVID-19 symptoms.

The FDA emphasizes that the pill is not authorized to prevent COVID-19 infection and is not a substitute for COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

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