COVID Pills: New Easy-to-Use Antiviral Drugs Come With One Note: Who Should Take Them, When, Effectively Against omicrons

Newly infected patients with COVID-19 have two new treatment options that can be done at home.

But that convenience comes with a caveat: The medication must be taken as soon as possible when symptoms appear.

The challenge is to check, get a prescription, and start taking it in no time.

US regulators approved the pills from Pfizer, Paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir last week. In high-risk patients, both have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, although Pfizer is much more effective.

Take a closer look:

Who should take these pills?

Antiretroviral drugs are not for everyone who tests positive. The drug is intended for people with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are more likely to become seriously ill. That includes older adults and people with other health conditions like heart disease, cancer or diabetes that make them more vulnerable. Both drugs are OK’d for adults while Paxlovid is allowed for children 12 years and older.

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Who should not take these pills?

Merck’s molnupiravir should not be given to children because it can interfere with bone growth. It is also not recommended for pregnant women because it can cause birth defects. Pfizer tablets are not recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems. It also may not be the best choice for some people as it can interact with other prescriptions the patient is taking. Antiretroviral drugs are not authorized for people hospitalized with COVID-19.

What is the treatment window?

Medicines must be started as soon as possible, within five days of the onset of symptoms. Cough, headache, fever, loss of taste or smell, and muscle and body aches are among the more common signs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a website to check your symptoms.

Dr Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University Hospital, recommends getting tested as soon as you have symptoms of COVID-19.

“If you wait until you start having trouble breathing, you miss the chance that these drugs will be helpful to a large extent,” says Wolfe.

Where can I get medicine?

You will first need a prescription from your doctor or other authorized healthcare professional. The US government is buying the drug from Merck and Pfizer and making it available for free, but initial supply will be limited. They will be shipped to states where they will be available at pharmacies, community health centers and elsewhere. Treatment lasts five days.

Some pharmacists can run rapid COVID-19 testing and prescribe medication in one visit. They did this in many states for the flu or sore throat.

Is the drug effective for the omicron variant?

These pills are expected to be effective against omicrons because they do not target the mutant protein, which is home to most of the variant’s worrisome mutations. These two pills work in different ways to stop the virus from multiplying.

Are there other options for new COVID-19 patients?

Yes, but they’re not as easy to use as pills: They’re given intravenously or by injection, usually in a hospital or clinic. The three drugs provide antibodies against the virus, although laboratory testing has shown that the two drugs are not effective against omicrons. Antibodies from British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline appear to have worked, and officials say they are working to increase US supplies. The only antiviral drug approved in the United States, remdesivir, is for people hospitalized with COVID-19.


AP Health writer Matthew Perrone contributed to this report.


The Associated Press Health and Science Division receives support from the Howard Hughes Health Institute’s Science Education Department. AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © 2021 by Associated Press. Copyright Registered. COVID Pills: New Easy-to-Use Antiviral Drugs Come With One Note: Who Should Take Them, When, Effectively Against omicrons

Dais Johnston

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