More and more articles are published every day about the new antiviral pills authorized for emergency use by the FDA to treat COVID-19.
What they don’t always provide is a practical breakdown of what you need to know in the event you find yourself seeking these medications.
Here’s a convenient run-down of who’s likely eligible, what you need to do if you think you are, and how timing is everything.
- What: Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir are the first class of at-home therapies that aim to prevent progression and severity of COVID-19. In clinical trials, Paxlovid did overwhelmingly better, resulting in an 88 percent reduction in severe illness compared to Molnupiravir’s 30 percent.
- Who: Immunocompromised patients are given highest priority with respect to who qualifies for these medications, followed by people over 65 with underlying health conditions that put them at risk for severe illness from COVID. Drug interaction risks with Pfizer’s Paxlovid may make Merck’s Molnupiravir the only option of the two for some patients.
- When: Time is of the essence, so knowing this information before you need it is critical to ensure you act as quickly as possible. Both medications need to be taken within the first five days of COVID symptoms. This is the period when the virus is replicating the most and when these drugs are effective.
- Where: The demand for these medications far outweighs the supply, so it’s difficult to make broad statements about what pharmacies have them in stock. After speaking with your doctor to determine whether or not these medications are right for you, you could use the GoodRx COVID 19 Pill Finder and enter your zip code to see what pharmacies or health centers have availability.
- How: The first thing you’ll need is a positive PCR test. From there, reach out to your primary care doctor for guidance. He or she will know if you are a suitable candidate for this medication and how you can proceed to get it. Paxlovid is prescribed as 30 tablets over five days and Molnupiravir is given as 40 capsules over five days.
As with most things we’ve experienced during this pandemic, these COVID pills, as well as their distribution, are imperfect. But we are fortunate to have another treatment option for some members of our most vulnerable populations. And for that, we can be thankful.