Africa To Receive First Supply Of Paxlovid Antiviral COVID-19 Pills

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has developed a new antiviral covid-19 pill that would soon be made available in Africa, according to Africa’s Centre for Disease Control.

Africa’s foremost public health agency signed a memorandum of understanding with Pfizer to bring supplies of the firm’s Paxlovid antiviral COVID-19 pills to the continent, to aid efforts to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

Latest Covid-19 statistics show that the virus has now killed close to six million people globally.

What To Know About About The New COVID-19 Pills

Pfizer’s treatment option in form of pills was developed to prevent people who are at high risk from becoming severely ill after infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and to allow for the option of home treatment that would significantly decrease hospitalization rates.

Cleared for emergency use since late 2021 in places like the UK and the EU, the pill is suitable for administration immediately after diagnosis or within five days of symptoms starting – among patients suffering severe forms of infection. However, the drug cannot be used if the patient requires supplemental oxygen.

How Does The COVID-19 Pill Work?

Paxlovid antiviral pill contains protease inhibitors that work by blocking the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ protease – a viral enzyme that cuts up the long virus polyprotein into smaller pieces in order to replicate. This reduces a person’s viral load and lessens the severity of their symptoms.

Results from clinical trials of Paxlovid showed the pill was much more effective than placebos. Pfizer’s clinical trial found Paxlovid reduced a person’s risk of hospitalization by 89% when given within three days of symptom onset.

Most people who are prescribed Paxlovid take three tablets at the same time, twice a day, but there is a dose reduction for people with moderate kidney disease.

What Are the Side Effects of the COVID-19 Pills?

Pfizer’s Paxlovid is a combination of two drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. Ritonavir is widely known for its use in HIV medications. It is not active against COVID-19, but it acts as a boosting agent to increase the levels of nirmatrelvir in the body to fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Many widely used medications for chronic conditions, like blood thinners or antidepressants, have known drug interactions with ritonavir.

“Some of these drug interactions are manageable by adjusting doses of the other medications, when possible,” said Deanna Olexia, RPh, antimicrobial stewardship coordinator for the Froedtert & MCW health network. “But when this isn’t an option or when the interactions could be significant, we direct patients toward an alternative therapy.”

Paxlovid isn’t recommended for people with severe kidney or liver disease.

Patsy Nwogu

Reporting on data-driven featured stories and investigations.

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