“Ask the Expert” articles provide information and insights from MSU scientists, researchers, and researchers on national and global issues, complex research, and topics of general interest based on their areas of academic expertise and study. They can contain historical information, background, research results or provide tips.
Peter Gulick, Professor of Medicine at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and Expert in Infectious Diseases, answers questions about medications used to combat COVID-19
What is Paxlovid and what is its primary use? Was this medicine created specifically to treat COVID-19?
Paxlovid is an antiviral agent that acts directly on COVID-19, whatever the variant. It is considered a major step forward in the fight against the virus as it reduces the risk of hospitalization or death per 89% in high-risk patients. By the end of 2021, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use permit of Paxlovid in people at high risk for severe COVID-19. It is new medicine created to fight the virus. It comes in pill form and is a valuable treatment option because unlike other available therapies, people who are newly infected can easily take it at home.
What is Molnupiravir and what is its primary use? Was this medicine created specifically to treat COVID-19?
Molnupiravir is another antiviral drug that is a mutagen, meaning that it causes the coronavirus to mutate into forms that are no longer able to replicate. It is also used specifically for COVID-19 regardless of variant.
Who is eligible for these drugs?
These drugs are mainly for people who have early COVID-19 infections and are only effective for those with symptoms for five or fewer days. They are developed for people who are either unvaccinated, 65 years and older, immunocompromised or have comorbid diseases, all of which are groups at risk of serious illness if they are infected with the virus.
Will this help people avoid serious illness?
Paxlovid is 89% effective in preventing hospitalization and serious illness, while Molnupiravir is only 30% effective. Another drug, Remdisavir, is also an antiviral drug that can be given to vulnerable patients with symptoms for up to seven days. It should be given as an IV infusion for three days as an outpatient procedure. It is 89% effective in preventing hospitalization and works on all variants.
What else can people do to protect themselves from serious illness from COVID-19?
Other ways to protect yourself are by getting vaccinations with a booster. In addition, it is important to wear a mask when you are in high-risk areas, such as crowded rooms or a poorly ventilated area. This is especially important if you are at high risk or immune.
Why are these drugs important?
These drugs are important because they are oral and can be used regardless of the variant and prevent you from getting a serious Covid-19 infection, especially the unvaccinated or immunocompromised ones, where they may not respond to the vaccine. There are several of these antiviral drugs being developed against COVID-19.