With the recent approval of the Pfizer Paxlovid antiviral pill by the Food and Drug Administration, health care practitioners will soon be able to prescribe medication to those who contract COVID-19. For Luis Ostrosky, MD, infectious disease specialist with UT Physicians, the news was music to his ears.
“Oral therapy for COVID-19 will be a game changer,” Ostrosky said. “It’s been a goal to do this. This is yet another piece of the puzzle to get us back to normal, and that’s why we’re very excited about it.”
Pfizer’s pill, Paxlovid, can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% based on Pfizer’s data. However, it must be taken within the first five days of developing symptoms, according to Ostrosky. Merck’s pill, molnupiravir, will also significantly reduce the percentage of deaths and hospitalization once approved.
“Having a highly effective oral treatment will offload hospitals and reduce fatalities. It will make everything a little more manageable on the community level,” Ostrosky said.
It is crucial for anyone with signs of COVID-19 — fever, cough, sore throat, aches, etc. — to see a doctor immediately. If confirmed, a patient may receive the prescription. Pregnant women will need to have conversations with their providers about the risks and benefits in this population.
The Pfizer pill is also co-formulated with another drug to improve its effectiveness, which may interact with other medications. Therefore, patients taking other prescriptions should first discuss their medication history with their providers, Ostrosky added.
Though people can now take medication for COVID-19, they still need to be proactive and receive their vaccinations.
“So far, the highest level of protection with any level of COVID-19 has been with vaccinations. The vaccine can reduce the chance of fatality by 90%,” Ostrosky said. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Ostrosky, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology and chief of infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, currently coordinates the COVID-19 response for the university and its affiliates.