The landscape for care as it relates to COVID-19 has been opaque at best.
Since the disease emerged in late 2019 and early 2020, the real challenges that come with identifying, combatting, and treating a previously unknown disease have been illustrated.
Infections spread and mutate all while the pharmaceutical industry races to keep pace with the ever-changing environment. The latest treatment that has at-times initiated confusion within the healthcare industry is Paxlovid, an antiviral medication that received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late 2021.
Developed by Pfizer, Paxlovid is a twice-daily, five-day oral medication regimen appropriate for anyone older than 11 who is at least 88 pounds and is at high risk of developing severe illness if infected with COVID-19. In essence, the medication is being used to help prevent hospitalizations once people are infected.
The drug has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in unvaccinated patients by 89%. However, recent headlines indicate there are still a number of questions related to prescribing guidelines and COVID rebound — a phenomenon Dr. Anthony Fauci experienced himself, according to reports.
As of now, here are a few things that are known about Paxlovid.
Pharmacists can prescribe.
In early July, the FDA made a decision to allow pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid, which is supposed to be administered within five days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. However, the FDA did not extend the same prescribing permissions for Merck and Ridgeback’s Lagevrio.
Paxlovid, in a clinical trial, showed significant promise at preventing severe cases of COVID-19. An infectious disease specialist at Yale called it the “beginning of a game-changer.”
It is convenient.
When compared to other medications being used to treat COVID-19 infections, such as remdesivir, Paxlovid is easier to administer. Remdesivir is administered by IV, while Paxlovid is an oral, multi-pill combination.
High-risk patients are the target.
Although PBS Newshour reports some physicians have been critical about the parameters of ideal patients for Paxlovid based on the emergency use authorization, other physicians have pointed out that the unvaccinated or those over the age of 65 or those with multiple comorbidities should always be prescribed the drug to help combat the infection.
Rebound is a concern.
While Pfizer has reported that just 1-2% of Paxlovid users experience a COVID-19 rebound, where the symptoms come back after being subdued for some time, patients and medical experts believe the rebound percentage to be higher — according to Time. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidance earlier this year on COVID-19 rebounds, but said most rebound experiences have been mild.
There are side effects and interactions to be aware of.
Like any medication, Paxlovid has its share of potential side effects, including an altered sense of taste, diarrhea, muscle aches and increased blood pressure. To be sure, the FDA has prepared a thorough list of potential side effects for patients to review before taking the medication. In addition, Paxlovid also has the potential to interact adversely with certain conditions and medications — most notably severe kidney disease and organ anti-rejection drugs.
Without a doubt, physicians and pharmacists are taking note of the evolving developments related to Paxlovid, its prescribing guidelines, its availability and its efficacy.
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