On July 21, the White House announced that President Biden tested positive for COVID-19. In the announcement, they stated that the president is being treated by taking Paxlovid.
Paxlovid is an antiviral medicine that’s highly effective at reducing the risks of hospitalization and death for patients with COVID-19 who are considered high risk.
“Patients at high risk include those who are unvaccinated; patients 65 years and older; those with comorbidities, such as heart or lung disease or diabetes; and those who are immunocompromised,” says Julia Landis, PharmD, network director of Clinical Pharmacy Services at Kettering Health.
What are the benefits of Paxlovid?
At 79, the president is fully vaccinated and twice boosted. His symptoms are said to be mild—an occasional cough and runny nose. He began taking Paxlovid within the five-day window the FDA recommends for beginning the treatment. In clinical trials, it was shown to reduce the risk of severe disease by nearly 90% in high-risk patients.
Paxlovid comes in pill form and can be taken at home. A combination of two other antiviral drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, Paxlovid has a course of treatment that is three pills taken twice a day, for five days.
In addition to helping high-risk patients avoid being hospitalized, the antiviral medicine also helps patients recover quicker. In some cases, patients report what’s being called “COVID rebound,” in which patients may test positive and have symptoms return after finishing a Paxlovid treatment.
What is “COVID rebound”?
Occurring in less than 1% of patients, the “rebound” and its causes are being studied.
For those concerned about the “COVID rebound,” Dr. Landis clarifies that “Symptoms and positive test results from ‘COVID rebound’ seem to improve or resolve quickly without additional treatment. Paxlovid is still effective at preventing hospitalization or death from SARS-CoV-2, even in those who experience ‘COVID rebound.’”
Paxlovid is not a COVID-19 vaccine, which is still the best way to protect yourself from severe infection. But it’s a valuable tool in caring for patients who have COVID.
Where do you get Paxlovid?
A prescription is required for Paxlovid.
“Patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19 should contact their primary care provider to see if Paxlovid or another COVID-19 treatment may be beneficial,” says Dr. Landis.
Your primary care provider is an invaluable advocate for your care, including helping you know whether you should take this medication.
“Paxlovid is not the best COVID-19 treatment for all patients,” says Dr. Landis. “Paxlovid can interact with prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines and should not be used in patients with severe kidney or liver impairment. Kettering Health has a referral process to evaluate if a patient is a good candidate for Paxlovid and provide alternative COVID-19 treatment options to those who are not.”