For people with COVID-19, we need a safe and effective oral treatment that can prevent more severe disease, shorten the time to recovery, and reduce the transmission rate. This would also help reduce current pressure on health care systems, such as lack of open beds in hospitals. Currently, for people with COVID not needing hospital care (mild-to-moderate COVID), treatment includes monoclonal antibodies. These are lab-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as the COVID-19 virus. Although monoclonal antibodies reduce the risk of progression to severe COVID, they need to be given in a health care setting like a hospital. Also, these may be less effective against new variants.

Preventing severe COVID

A new study looked at 2,246 patients with symptomatic COVID outside of a hospital. Researchers divided the patients into two groups: one group took an oral medicine (Paxlovid), and the other group took a placebo (dummy pill) every 12 hours for 5 days. Paxlovid is an antiviral agent that works directly on COVID no matter the variant. Participants started taking the medicines within 3 days after the start of COVID symptoms. Overall, compared to placebo, people taking Paxlovid had 89% less relative risk for COVID-related hospitalization or death from any cause.

Very few side-effects

The benefits from Paxlovid were seen regardless of the person’s age, sex, race, body mass index, viral load, or coexisting conditions. The main side effect of Paxlovid was a distorted sense of taste (in 5.6%), called dysgeusia. This symptom also happens in some people who get COVID.

These results suggest that a 5-day pill pack is an important and effective medical advancement to prevent serious COVID-19 disease and reduce viral load.


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