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The COVID-19 Pill: How Does Paxlovid Work?

woman putting on face mask

A COVID-19 pill called Paxlovid is now available to the public. This pill effectively fights the virus and may help those who have contracted it. However, there are some questions about this “wonder drug” that remain, such as: 

  • Who can take Paxlovid?
  • How does it work? 
  • What are the drug interactions and side effects?

All of these critical questions need answers. That's why we're here to provide you with all the information you need about this antiviral pill.

What Is Paxlovid?

Paxlovid is a COVID-19 antiviral oral pill. Developed by Pfizer, this three-pill treatment is effective in fighting the virus and may help those who have already contracted COVID-19.

Three pills make up Paxlovid, including two doses of nirmatrelvir and one dose of ritonavir. Nirmatrelvir stops the virus' spread, and ritonavir, helps the nirmatrelvir stay in your system and work for longer.

How Does Paxlovid Work?

The nirmatrelvir in Paxlovid inhibits the replication of the virus in the body. It does this by blocking an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate. Enzyme blocking helps prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Stopping the virus in its tracks can also improve symptoms, reduce the severity of the illness, and speed up recovery time.

How Is Paxlovid Taken?

Paxlovid is taken orally and should be used within five days of showing symptoms. The earlier the medication is taken, the more effective it is in limiting the spread of COVID-19 internally and to people around you. The full course of Paxlovid is 30 pills over five days. You take your three pills twice a day — two nirmatrelvir and one ritonavir.

It is important to note that this pill is not a cure for the virus, but it can help to lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. You should still take steps to self-isolate and avoid unnecessary contact with others while recovering from COVID-19.

Who Can Take Paxlovid?

Paxlovid is available to anyone over 12 (weighing more than 88 pounds) who has contracted COVID-19. However, it is not suggested as a go-to option. Instead, Paxlovid is recommended for patients with a weakened immune system or who may be at increased risk of developing severe symptoms. Paxlovid requires a prescription to obtain and is considered for emergency use only.

Paxlovid is not recommended for patients with kidney disease because the ritonavir in Paxlovid can cause kidney problems. If you have other medical conditions, talk to your doctor before taking Paxlovid.

Paxlovid Statistics

In clinical trials, Paxlovid was shown to be effective in treating COVID-19. In one trial, 83 percent of patients who received Paxlovid had no virus detectable in their system after five days, compared to only 54 percent of patients who received a placebo.

Paxlovid has also decreased serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. In one trial, there was a 65 percent reduction in hospitalization and death in patients who received Paxlovid compared to those who received a placebo.

Potential Side Effects

Paxlovid has excellent potential to help lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is a recent drug that is still undergoing testing. As with most prescription and over-the-counter medicines, some potential side effects are associated with Paxlovid. These side effects may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • headaches
  • change in taste
  • muscle aches

These are typically mild and go away on their own within a few days. However, if you experience any severe side effects or allergic reactions, it is important to contact your doctor immediately. Severe side effects may include:

  • rash
  • hives
  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • yellowing skin or eyes
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal pain

Paxlovid Drug Interactions

Some drug interactions need to be considered with Paxlovid. If you are taking any other medications, it is essential to speak with your doctor before starting Paxlovid to make sure there will be no unexpected issues from your current prescriptions.

Some of the drugs that may interact with Paxlovid include:

  • HIV medications
  • antidepressants
  • heartburn medications

This list is not exhaustive. So, it is always best to be cautious and speak with your doctor before starting any new medication, even for COVID-19.

What Is Paxlovid Rebound?

There is a potential for what is called "Paxlovid rebound." The rebound occurs when the virus comes back after you stop taking Paxlovid. Rebound can occur because the drug only works on the symptoms and not the root cause of the infection.

If you think you might have a rebound, it is important to speak with your doctor. They will likely want to test to see if the virus is still present. If it is, they may prescribe a different treatment option.

Get Tested for COVID-19 Early

Getting tested for COVID-19 as soon as you start showing symptoms is essential. This way, you can assess your treatment options and get the necessary care. Such treatment options may include Paxlovid. But remember: this medication must be taken within five days of your first symptoms. So testing early is critical.

Fortunately, Countrywide Testing offers convenient and reliable at-home COVID-19 testing options that can help you get the answers you need. At Countrywide, we’re dedicated to supporting you for a safer, healthier life. For more information about our products and services, contact our team today.

Final Thoughts

Paxlovid is an option for COVID-19 treatment that shows promise. However, it is important to remember that it is not a cure. If you have contracted COVID-19, be sure to follow all recommended guidelines for self-isolation and treatment.

Furthermore, Paxlovid is just one of many possible treatments for COVID-19.  Each patient is different, so speak with your doctor about all of your treatment options. They will help you decide which option is best for you based on your situation.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, be sure to ask your physician. They will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information to help you navigate this pandemic safely.