Paxlovid for COVID-19: Essential Info


Besides vaccines, one of the most effective weapons in the fight against COVID-19 is Paxlovid, an antiviral pill treatment combining the drugs nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. Studies have found that Paxlovid can reduce the risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization or death in high-risk adults with mild or moderate disease by 89 percent compared with placebo.

Paxlovid is still relatively new — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized this therapy for emergency use in December 2021 — so you may be wondering how it works, who should take it, and what side effects to expect.

Answering these and other FAQs are two infectious disease specialists: William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine and health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee; and Prasanna Jagannathan, MD, assistant professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

What is Paxlovid, and how does it work?

Paxlovid is a drug regimen developed by Pfizer for people 12 and older who have mild to moderate COVID-19 and are at high risk of becoming severely sick or dying, per the FDA fact sheet (PDF). Patients take three pills — two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir, packaged together — twice daily for five days.


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