The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization for a new COVID-19 treatment, delivered to patients in oral tablets. However, the medication must be taken quickly after symptomatic infection to maximize effectiveness.
The authorization applies to Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir pills, which are used by persons with mild to moderate symptoms not yet needing hospital treatment. The FDA stated that the pills should be used as soon as possible when required to be effective.
The medicines should be taken within five days of a patient experiencing symptoms. Paxlovid is prescribed in a five-day course of three pills twice a day. It was reported this week that some U.S. pharmacies would be authorized to test patients with symptoms and prescribe the pills in a single visit. It is recommended that if a patient becomes hospitalized after starting the medication, they should complete the course unless their treating physician directs otherwise.
FDA studies indicate that both treatments help reduce hospitalization and deaths resulting from COVID infection. The Pfizer pill has shown an 88 percent effectiveness in such reductions. It has been approved for patients 12 and older or those weighing at least 88 pounds. The medicine is not suggested for people who have liver or kidney disease. Merck’s Molnupiravir pill has not received emergency authorization for patients under 18 at this time. That medication may affect bone and cartilage development in children.
Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke University infectious disease expert, said that patients who wait until they are experiencing breathlessness have largely “missed the window” in which the new drugs could be helpful.
Other medical experts have warned of possible serious side effects of the drugs that could be life-threatening. Those concerns center on persons already taking anti-seizure medications, blood thinners, and medications for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and depression.
According to Peter Anderson, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Colorado, some interactions could be harmful and not minor. He added that some medications should not be combined with the new COVD pills in any circumstance.
The Biden Administration has announced plans to purchase at least 10 million courses of Paxlovid for distribution to Americans at the cost of about $5 billion.