President Joe Biden has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and according to the White House medical unit, he is quarantining and taking an antiviral drug.
The president’s doctors say Biden is being given the drug called Paxlovid.
What is Paxlovid and what does it do? Here’s what we know about it now.
What is Paxlovid?
Paxlovid is an antiviral pill developed by Pfizer. It is designed to help keep high-risk patients from getting so ill that they need to be hospitalized.
The drug was granted an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration in December. It can be given to anyone at high risk for severe disease as long as they are ages 12 or older and weigh at least 88 pounds.
In early July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe the drug to eligible patients.
How does it work?
A person positive for COVID-19 will be prescribed Paxlovid pills twice daily for five days — that’s 30 pills for a full course of the medication.
When you take your three-pill dose, two of those pills will be nirmatrelvir, a drug that blocks a key enzyme that the COVID-19 virus requires in order to make more virus.
Once given the nirmatrelvir treatment, the virus that is released from the cells is no longer able to enter uninfected cells in the body.
The third pill is ritonavir, a drug that is used to boost levels of antiviral medicines. Ritonavir helps keep nirmatrelvir in the body longer to fight the virus.
How effective is it? Does it work on omicron infections?
Paxlovid’s clinical trials were conducted before omicron became the dominant strain in the U.S. and around the world.
However, according to Pfizer, the drug works against omicron. According to the company, it reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% in the clinical trial that supported the emergency usage authorization.
What are the side effects?
Paxlovid is usually very well-tolerated, but some people may have side effects from the drug. They include:
· Trouble swallowing or breathing
· Swelling of the mouth, lips, or face
· Throat tightness
· Skin rash
Other possible side effects include:
· An altered or impaired sense of taste
· Increased blood pressure
· Muscle aches
· Abdominal pain
· Feeling generally unwell
What is the “rebound effect” of Paxlovid?
Some people, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have taken Paxlovid have reported a “rebound” of COVID-19 symptoms after they have completed the five-day course of Paxlovid, according to Yale Medicine infectious diseases experts.
It is not clear if the drug is involved in that rebound or whether a rebound is a natural outcome of this variant of the virus. In June, the CDC released guidance for clinicians, saying a brief return of symptoms may be part of the natural history of SARS-CoV-2 infection in some people.
According to Pfizer, during clinical trials, several participants appeared to have a rebound in virus levels “around day 10 or day 14,” although this also occurred in some people who were given a placebo.
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