The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s Paxlovid for mild to moderate Covid in people as young as 12 who have underlying conditions that raise the risk of hospitalization and death from the coronavirus, such as heart disease or diabetes.
But that convenience comes with a catch: The pills have to be taken as soon as possible once symptoms appear.
The challenge is getting tested, getting a prescription and starting the pills in a short window.
U.S. regulators authorized Pfizer’s pill, Paxlovid, and Merck’s molnupiravir last week. In high-risk patients, both were shown to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, although Pfizer’s was much more effective.
The antiviral pills aren’t for everyone who gets a positive test. The pills are intended for those with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are more likely to become seriously ill. That includes older people and those with other health conditions like heart disease, cancer or diabetes that make them more vulnerable. Both pills were OK’d for adults while Paxlovid is authorized for children ages 12 and older.
Merck’s molnupiravir is not authorized for children because it might interfere with bone growth. It also isn’t recommended for pregnant women because of the potential for birth defects. Pfizer’s pill isn’t recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems. It also may not be the best option for some because it may interact with other prescriptions a patient is taking. The antiviral pills aren’t authorized for people hospitalized with COVID-19.
The pills are expected to be effective against omicron because they don’t target the spike protein where most of the variant’s worrisome mutations reside. The two pills work in different ways to prevent the virus from reproducing.