What you need to know about the antiviral drug Paxlovid


California Gov. Gavin Newsom has given a positive test for COVID-19 and is taking Paxlovid. Here’s what experts say about drugs.

Fabian Sommer / picture-alliance / dpa / AP Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom prescribed Paxlovid after test positive on COVID-19 over the weekend, his office announced.

“The governor also received a prescription for Paxlovid, an antiviral drug that has proven effective against COVID-19, and will immediately begin its 5-day regimen,” the May 28 statement said.

The Food and Drug Administration has first published a document Paxlovid emergency use permit in December.

“This resolution provides a new tool to combat COVID-19 at a crucial time of the pandemic, when new options emerge, and promises to make antiviral treatment more accessible to patients at high risk of severe COVID-19,” – Dr Patricia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said during the drug’s authorization.

When the drug was studied, researchers tried to test whether the drug prevents hospitalization of patients at high risk of hospitalization, told McClatchy News Dr. Tara Vijayan, who works in the Department of Infectious Diseases of David Geffen Medical School at UCLA.

“And they found that it actually reduced the risk of hospitalization by 89%,” she said.

Here are three things you need to know about Paxlovid.

What is Paxlovid and how does it work?

Paxlovid is an antiviral therapy designed to treat COVID-19 of mild to moderate severity, Dr. Michelle Garmazyan, clinical coordinator and pharmacist at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, told McClatchy News. It consists of two different oral antiviral drugs: nirmatrelvir and ritanavir.

“One of the drugs [nirmatrelvir]in fact, it is a COVID protease inhibitor, which means that it mainly prevents the replication of the COVID virus, “Garmazyan said.

The second drug, ritanovir, works to block the metabolism of the first drug so that the body can maintain sufficient levels of nirmotrelvir for proper functioning, Garmazyan said.

According to Harmozyan, patients with COVID-19 positive who are prescribed Paxlovid will take it twice a day for five days.

Patients, depending on medical history and current medications, will take one or two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir, Vijayan said.

Some potential side effects of the drug may include changes in taste, upset stomach or diarrhea, high blood pressure or muscle pain, according to Garmozyan.

Who can take Paxlovid?

Paxlovid is intended for patients with a positive COVID-19 result who are most at risk for hospitalization, Garmazyan said. Patients should take Paxlovid for five days after the onset of symptoms.

“So it’s not used for prevention. It is not used for patients who may have been exposed but do not have positive tests, or those who are asymptomatic, “Garmazyan said.

The drug is prescribed to those who are at increased risk of developing a more severe form of COVID-19, Garmazyan said. Doctors will look for other problems that put patients at greater risk, including diabetes, chronic lung disease such as asthma, or weakened immunity.

To prescribe medication, the doctor will review the patient’s medical history, including examining what medication the patient is taking to determine if the drug is appropriate for the patient, according to Garmazyan.

To take Paxlovid, a patient must be at least 12 years old and weigh more than 40 pounds, or about 88 pounds, Garmazyan said.

“But I would say that young people who do not take any medication or do not have chronic diseases should not take Paxlovid,” Vijayan said.

What about the COVID rebound?

In some patients, doctors have seen a rebound of COVID after the prescribed dosage of Paxlovid, Garmazyan said.

“Some patients are negative after taking Paxlovid, and then, about the eighth day, the test is positive again,” – said Garmazyan.

If a patient has a positive result and symptoms after taking Paxlovid, he should not be prescribed Paxlovid again, Vijayan said.

“The main purpose of this medicine is to prevent hospitalization,” Vijayan said. “It’s not to actually shorten the days of symptoms that you have.”

However, patients with a positive test should be isolated, Vijayan said.

Despite the possibility of a COVID rebound, Vijayan encourages patients to consider Paxlovid.

“It’s a really good drug, and people shouldn’t avoid it if they’re at high risk for hospitalization,” she said. “They shouldn’t avoid taking it because they’re worried about rebound symptoms.”

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