The FDA has issued urgent approval Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid, making it the first oral method to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. The treatment is intended for people at high risk of 12 years of age and older who could progress to a more serious COVID infection. The best part? The FDA says it could be available for use within a few days, making it another tool as we face the wave of Omicron variants.
Paxlovid is available only on prescription and should be taken within five days of the first observation of COVID symptoms. According to Pfizer tests, it can prevent hospitalization or death by 88 percent in high-risk patients. The treatment, which can be prescribed to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, consists of 30 tablets taken over five days. It contains the protein inhibitor nirmatrelvir and rotinavir, which prevents the breakdown of this inhibitor in your body. Side effects include impaired sense of taste, high blood pressure, diarrhea and muscle aches.
“This authorization provides a new tool to combat COVID-19 at a crucial time of the pandemic as new variants emerge and promises to make antiviral treatment more accessible to patients at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director. The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said in a statement.
So far, the U.S. has ordered enough pills to treat 10 million people The New York Times reports. The company plans to deliver enough pills to cover 65,000 Americans within a week. After that, production is expected to increase, with 150,000 courses delivered in January and 150,000 in February. It also won’t be the only antiviral pill: Merck’s competitive treatment is expected to be approved soon and will likely be more affordable than Pfizer’s. Merck’s option, however, is far less effective – tests show it can only prevent hospitalization or death by 30 percent. (Still, it’s better than no treatment.)
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