Coronavirus Nation News

Antiviral pills FDA approved for mild COVID-19 treatment


Juana Garcia/the Cougar

The first oral treatment for COVID-19 has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization, with the Biden administration doubling the order for Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral pills.

The FDA still urges people to get the vaccines and boosters, as these antiviral pills are not a substitute for either, but for use after a diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days since the start of symptoms. The order of Paxlovid is expected to arrive towards the end of June, with the second set arriving in September.

While these treatments are not a substitute for the COVID-19 vaccine, it should be viewed as an additional weapon used to fight COVID-19 and are likely to keep many people out of the hospital, said clinical assistant professor of pharmacology Michelle Turpin.

“Having an oral medication is a big leap forward in the treatment and management of COVID in part because of its convenience and ease of delivery,” Turpin said.

A second treatment, Molnupiravir, was also issued a EUA shortly after Paxlovid. With some similarities to Paxlovid, the main differences include more restrictions, such as it cannot be used once a patient has been hospitalized due to COVID-19, and if the patient is younger than 18 years.

Current data shows that Paxlovid is 89 percent effective, whereas Mereck’s Molnupiravir is around 30 percent effective. Life-threatening interactions could occur if taking Paxlovid while also taking forms of blood thinners, antidepressants and other certain medications.

In an article from NBC News, pharmacists stated that most of the drug interactions are manageable and should not prevent people from taking Paxlovid if needed.

Molnupiravir seems to have little to no side effects according to clinical trials, including dizziness and nausea, however, it is not recommended for people who are pregnant. 

Biology freshman Noura Abu-Shami, believes the antiviral pills are a vital step towards decreasing the spread of COVID-19, and that they must be available to all who are eligible in order to achieve maximum effectiveness.

“With the vaccine, there have been people not willing to take it or the booster,” Abu-Shami said. “It may take some time for (people) to get on board, but I think like the vaccine, we will see a decrease in the severity of COVID symptoms.”

With the recent surge of COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant, the implementation of antiviral pills will not help to prevent new cases but will focus on lessening symptoms and reducing hospitalizations.

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