Pfizer’s Paxlovid Covid Medication: How It Works

Pfizer’s Paxlovid Covid Medication: How It Works

This antiviral drug could keep people out of the hospital and alive.

Pfizer has a new medication that was just approved for use in the US and could prove to be beneficial in the fight against COVID-19. It’s called Paxlovid. Like monoclonal antibody treatment infusions, this medication works by being taken soon after you catch COVID-19. It comes as a pill that you swallow at home before your body becomes so sick that you need to go to the hospital. The idea is that Paxlovid will stop you from getting super sick with the coronavirus. Good news!

Paxlovid works by blocking an enzyme that’s involved in viral replication. Once you catch the coronavirus, Paxolvid can stop the virus from reproducing too much in your body.

A study involving almost 1400 people showed the drug reduced the risk of someone being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 by 89%. These results applied if the medication was given to a high-risk adult in the first three days of the onset of their symptoms. Among the 697 unvaccinated people who caught COVID-19 in the study, 5 people were hospitalized and no one died. In the group that received the placebo, (682 people), 44 people were hospitalized and 9 patients died. Everyone in the study was unvaccinated.

These findings are encouraging. They show the drug may be a key player in helping to end the pandemic. This will not be by getting rid of the novel coronavirus but by reducing the imminent danger it can present. This is especially true for those in high risk groups.

What is in Paxlovid?

Paxlovid is made by combining an older antiviral drug called ritonavir with a newer one named nirmatrelvir.

Ritonavir is used with other drugs to treat HIV/AIDS patients.  It’s a protease inhibitor. In HIV/AIDS patients, this drug works by interfering with the ability of the HIV virus to reproduce in the human body. Ritonavir lowers the level of the virus in you.

              Related: When Will Be the Next Pandemic?

With COVID-19, the drug makes it easier for your body to win the fight with the virus. Nirmatrelvir is also a protease inhibitor. This antiviral drug works by inhibiting the virus from replicating before viral RN replication. This happens in a stage of virus reproduction called proteolysis.

Who is Paxlovid For?

Paxlovid was primarily studied for use in high risk COVID-19 patients and showed promising results. Some research has shown it might also reduce hospitalizations in people who aren’t considered “high risk”. Pfizer is said to be currently studying how the drug can work in both vaccinated and unvaccinated groups of people who aren’t considered to be at high risk for severe infection and death from COVID-19. Really, this drug could be a game changer for everyone.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Paxlovid for use in the US for people over 12 years old who weigh at least 88 pounds.  The Biden administration is said to have already purchased 10 million treatment courses of the drug. (One treatment course involves taking Paxlovid three pills twice a day for five days).

What else can you do to protect yourself? Your best protection against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, wear a mask, and avoid large gatherings.  Use rapid testing if you are going to get together in groups. Wash your hands and stay safe!

photo credits: vovidzha/

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