Ask the Pharmacist: September/October 2022

What is Paxlovid, and can I take it if I get COVID?

Paxlovid is an oral antiviral treatment that can be taken at home to prevent high-risk COVID patients from becoming sick enough to be hospitalized. It was granted an Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA in December 2021. Paxlovid consists of two different medications: nirmatrelvir, a drug that disrupts viral replication, and ritonavir, which boosts the effectiveness of nirmatrelvir by slowing the rate at which it is metabolized by the liver.

To qualify for a Paxlovid prescription, an individual must be 12 years of age or older, weigh at least 88 pounds, have tested positive for COVID-19, be symptomatic, and be at high risk for developing severe COVID-19 illness. Individuals at high risk include people who are 65 and older and individuals of any age with certain underlying conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and obesity. To be effective, treatment must begin within five days of symptom onset, so you are not eligible to take Paxlovid if you have had COVID-19 symptoms for more than five days. Patients with severe renal impairment are not eligible; those with moderate impairment will take a lower dose.

Side effects include an altered or impaired sense of taste, a sour or metallic taste in your mouth, diarrhea, stomach upset, increased blood pressure, and muscle aches. Paxlovid interacts with a number of other medications, including many widely used medications for chronic conditions, so this is something to discuss with your doctor and pharmacist. Make sure they are aware of all medications you take. Some people experience a relapse of COVID symptoms after completing their five-day course. Most of these rebound infections appear to be relatively mild and clear quickly without further treatment.

If you test positive for COVID and qualify to take Paxlovid, contact your doctor or pharmacist for a prescription.

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