While the Food and Drug Administration authorized Paxlovid, the first antiviral treatment for Covid-19, in December 2021, it’s been making headlines more recently thanks to one prominent patient: President Joe Biden.
Paxlovid’s antiviral properties can reduce symptom severity and shorten the course of a case of Covid-19 (also shortening your quarantine time.)
“The huge benefit in studies is that it protects people from hospitalization and death,” says W. Justin Moore, a clinical pharmacist specializing in infectious diseases at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
While initial studies showed it offered the most benefit for unvaccinated people, those who are vaccinated against Covid-19 can also take Paxlovid, as long as they meet certain criteria. Here’s what you need to know about taking Paxlovid for Covid-19.
Should you take Paxlovid?
Paxlovid is recommended for mild and moderate cases of Covid-19.
“The benefit is to prevent people from progressing to severe disease, to keep them out of the hospital,” says Moore. If you end up in the hospital with Covid-19, you’re past the point of needing Paxlovid — you’d likely be given a different form of treatment.
Who is eligible?
Anyone above 12 years old, at least 88 pounds and at risk for serious complications of Covid-19 can get a Paxlovid prescription, as long as they have a positive rapid or PCR test.
The definition of “high risk” includes people 65 or older and anyone with a compromised immune system. Patients with conditions like asthma and diabetes or a BMI of 25 or higher also qualify for Paxlovid treatments.
Are there any bad drug interactions?
Paxlovid is safe to take with other medications. However, it can interact with certain drugs, such as common blood thinners and a supplement called St. John’s wort, so always tell your provider about other medications you take.
Who can prescribe it?
Paxlovid always requires a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider. If you have Covid-19 and you want to take it, it’s best to head to urgent care or talk to your primary care provider.
Like Tamiflu, the antiviral drug that treats influenza, Paxlovid works best when you take it as soon as possible after symptom onset. Moore recommends starting it within five days of symptoms and a positive Covid-19 test.
How do you take Paxlovid?
Patients take three tablets twice a day for five days. Like any other medication, it can cause side effects. Most commonly, people experience digestive issues like diarrhea and nausea.
While Paxlovid may help protect you from severe sickness, Moore emphasizes that it’s still important to take other steps to safeguard your health. “Stay up to date on vaccines and boosters, and continue masking in crowded indoor spaces to protect yourself and others,” he says.
Need a doctor who can prescribe Paxlovid? Check here.