Recently we have been receiving several questions from our patients about the new COVID medication Paxlovid©. Given that we are currently in the 6th COVID-19 wave, we thought it was important to clarify who qualifies and how to access Paxlovid© if it is needed.
Paxlovid© consists of two medications, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. The nirmatrelvir stops the virus from multiplying, while the ritonavir helps keep the levels of nirmatrelvir high so it can continue to work in the body for a longer time than without the ritonavir.
Paxlovid© has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization for adult patients in the community with a positive COVID-19 test when taken within 5 days of symptom onset. In addition, it is prescribed for specific patients who would have a more difficult time fighting the virus. This would include those:
- who are immunocompromised
- with less than 3 COVID vaccines
- who are pregnant
- with other health risks
Factors like the ones above in addition to your age will lead your doctor to decide whether Paxlovid© is right for you.
Your doctor may consider other treatments for those patients who are not in the hospital and may not be ideal candidates for Paxlovid©. This may include patients with impaired kidney function; depending on the degree of impairment, a dose reduction in the Paxlovid© may be needed.
Given that the medication needs to be started within 5-days of symptom onset, it is important that your pharmacy is able to dispense the medication in a timely manner. Apart from the prescription and being within the 5-day window, you must also have a positive COVID test. The best way to make sure you get Paxlovid© promptly is to get a prescription and put it on HOLD at your local pharmacy. This way, if you get a positive COVID test, you can show the proof of the test to the pharmacy and get the Paxlovid© quickly. Keep in mind, that physicians and pharmacies are overwhelmed with calls regarding Paxlovid© at this time. Please be patient as they are trying their best to prioritize their patients at the greatest risk.
Paxlovid© has many drug interactions, so it is very important you disclose all medications you are taking to your pharmacy. This includes prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and natural health products. Please also inform your pharmacist if you have impaired kidney function. Your pharmacist will help your doctor make a plan regarding any interacting drugs to ensure the Paxlovid© works as effectively and safely as possible.
Marija Ilic is a Pharmacy Student from the University of Waterloo currently doing a rotation at Charlton Health as part of her final year of studies. Through Marija’s education, she has gained experience in both hospital and community pharmacy settings and hopes to find a specialized pharmacy role when she graduates.