New and Effective COVID-19 Treatment

Grace Kenney, Prospect Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. To date, the most successful efforts have been directed at prevention using mRNA vaccines, boosters, social distancing, and emphasizing masks. However, treatment of those who are infected has been challenging and has been based on administering convalescent antibodies to patients. The future is hopeful, now with two pills invented and in the process of being approved by the FDA. These pills work against all known COVID variants, including Omicron. 

Pfizer created the first vaccine against COVID  that is now eligible to children aged 5-18. At it again, Pfizer has created Paxlovid, an antiviral oral pill that contains Nirmatrelvir. Nirmatrelvir inhibits COVID’s main protease, an enzyme involved in viral reproduction. Paxlovid has been proven to lower mortality and hospitalization by about 90% if taken within five days of the start of symptoms. The FDA has approved an EUA (early use authorization) of Paxlovid, but has not authorized its use for pre or post-exposure prevention of COVID and has not approved it as treatment of hospitalized patients.

Another pill, Molnupiravir, was made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. Molnupiravir is an antiviral drug also proven effective if taken five days within symptoms. Molnupiravir was originally thought to be 50% effective against hospitalization and death, but after a more recent test, it is 30% effective. This drug is less effective compared to Paxlovid. 

In summary:

  • Anyone who has a positive test can take these two pills once fully approved.
  • The treatments are focused towards elevated risk patients, those who would develop a severe case of COVID-19.
  • Paxlovid is eligible for those 12 and older.
  • Molnupiravir is eligible for those 18 and older. 
  • The treatment window of both drugs is 5 days after becoming symptomatic.
  • Are these drugs effective against the Omicron variant? Yes!
  • While these drugs are effective, it is still vital to be fully vaccinated and boosted once eligible.

Stay safe, wear a mask, and get vaxxed Falcons!