Therapeutic COVID drug to be given to eligible patients experiencing mild to moderate symptoms

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Posted at 6:51 PM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 19:00:20-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County released information about people who test positive for COVID-19, within the county's Department of Health testing services, in early April.

These patients will be offered a COVID-19 antiviral prescription called Paxlovid, if eligible.

COVID patients suffering with the mild-to-moderate effects of the disease, may be eligible to receive a therapeutic drug, which is similar to the flu's antiviral drug, Tamiflu.

Note: The prioritization for the antiviral drug is based on those who are vulnerable. Those who are COVID "Long Haulers" must be considered vulnerable to be considered.

Catholic Health primary care and internal medicine specialist, Dr. Lauren Kuwik said, "It decreases your risk for hospitalizations if you're high-risk. Getting vaccinated and boosted, and second boosted is way more important. In an ideal world, you wouldn't get COVID to begin with."

According to the Erie County Department of Health, clinical trials for Paxlovid, involving high-risk patients, showed an 88% reduction in the risk for hospitalization and death among people taking Paxlovid to treat COVID-19, compared to those taking a placebo.

However, with all drugs there is a caveat.

Doctor Kuwik said, "Ideally, we'd like to put patients on Paxlovid if we could. Paxlovid has five to eight pages of drug-drug interactions, mostly cardiac medications, stat medications, blood pressure medications, heart rhythm medicines. So, the pharmacist will usually ask for a medication list."

Another option is Lagevrio's molnupiravir drug, which was developed by Merck & Co.

Doctor Kuwik explained, "Molnupiravir (Lagevrio), what we are primarily using that for is our renal transplants and dialysis patients because Paxlovid is based on your kidney functions. Paxlovid is most of what I prescribe. For example, if I have a kidney transplant patient call me with COVID, or a COVID concern then I'm thinking about, Lagevrio for them."

This is a photo of Paxlovid, developed by Pfizer, being dispensed.

"It's also worth noting, however, that there are concerns of potential teratogenic effects with molnupravir. So if you're pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant, Molnupravir is not the right drug for you," University at Buffalo chief of infectious disease and professor, Doctor Thomas Russo said.

Both Paxlovid and Molnupravir are not approved but were authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, in the United States, in December 2021.

Doctor Kuwik shared, "Back in December, January, there were only five or six pharmacies in the Western New York area and you had to specifically send to those pharmacies."

This number has expanded in New York State, but only selected pharmacies are provided with either antiviral drug.

A search can easily be done to find the nearest pharmacy by zip code, on the Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response website.

Another option is by searching the Health Data website for a list of Western New York locations that carry either drug.

Doctor Kuwik said at the moment, the therapeutic drugs are free through the government.

When asked about the possibility of a fourth vaccine for people ages 18 and older, Dr. Russo explained this is "highly unlikely" to be approved for people less than the age of 50, unless new data emerges showing the correlation between hospitalizations and bad outcomes in that age group.Federal health officials are now sharing concerns that states are sharing less information about COVID rates.