Should I take an antiviral drug against COVID-19?
Should I take an antiviral drug against COVID-19?

Should I take an antiviral drug against COVID-19?

Wwith it Omicron variant is still circulating around the world, and home tests for COVID-19 are becoming increasingly popular, and more people are testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. It makes them wonder if there is anything they can do to reduce the number of their sick days, and, more importantly, to reduce the chance of getting seriously ill. Here is an overview of which treatments are available, who should use them and when.

Can anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 receive medication?

So far, COVID-19 therapies are not intended for the vast majority of people who can be tested positive. They are aimed at people with underlying health conditions, who may not have such a strong immune response to the vaccines, or the elderly, who are all more vulnerable to having severe enough symptoms that they may need hospitalization. However, researchers are studying the risks and benefits of the therapies to consider whether it is both safe and effective to extend the treatments to include more people who test positive.

How many drug treatments are available to treat COVID-19?

The drug-based treatments for COVID-19 basically fall into one of two categories: monoclonal antibodies or antiviral agents.

Monoclonal antibodies are compounds that mimic parts of the immune cells that SARS-CoV-2 infects. With enough monoclonal antibodies floating around, the virus binds to these drugs instead of healthy cells, greatly reducing the number of healthy cells that end up becoming infected and becoming factories to produce more viruses.

There are currently four such treatments approved by the FDA:

  • Tixagevimab and cligavimab
  • Sotrovimab
  • Bamlanivimab and etesevimab
  • Casirivimab and imdevimab

Only the first treatment remains effective in protecting against the Omicron variant.

Antiviral drugs work by interrupting the virus from using the machinery of a healthy cell to copy its genetic material and reproduce. In October 2020, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first COVID-19 antiviral agent, remdesivir, made by Gilead, after issuance of an emergency use permit for the drug in May 2020. It is an IV drug that can only be administered in hospitals or infusion clinics.

In December 2021, FDA approved the first antiviral pill, Paxlovid, from Pfizer. Paxlovid is actually a combination of two drugs, one that blocks SARS-CoV-2 from replicating and another that prevents the body from breaking down the previous drug too quickly. Paxlovid is recommended for people at high risk of developing life-threatening or otherwise serious COVID-19 disease; the treatment involves taking three tablets twice daily for five days.

Just one day after the issuance of the permit to Paxlovid, the FDA too approved the second COVID-19 antiviral pill, molnupiravir, from Merck. It works by introducing genetic defects into the viral copying process. As with Paxlovid, molnupiravir is indicated for people who are vulnerable to developing severe COVID-19 disease; the latter, however, involves taking four capsules twice daily for five days.

How effective are antibody treatments?

To date, research suggests that monoclonal antibodies may reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by up to 80% compared to people who do not take the drugs.

The problem with these therapies, however, is that SARS-CoV-2 can easily mutate around them. The FDA has approved four such treatments, but three of them are not effective in protecting against the Omicron variant. The National Institutes of Health encourages physicians to prescribe only one of the authorized treatments, Evusheld (a combination of tixagevimab and cilgavimab given in two injections), made by AstraZeneca. In a examination published on April 20 in New England Journal of MedicineResearchers led by a team at AstraZeneca found that the company’s combination of two drugs reduced the risk of COVID-19 symptoms in vulnerable people by almost 77% compared to those given placebo.

How effective are antiviral treatments?

Antiviral drugs are also beautiful Effective; Studies have shown that Paxlovid can lower the risk of hospitalization by more than 90% among the most vulnerable to disease. Molnupiravir is much less effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death if taken several days after the onset of symptoms, but much more effective if used earlier in the course of the disease, reducing this risk by anywhere from 30% to 50% among them. , who take the drug compared to those who do not use it.

When should I take these treatments?

Due to the way monoclonal antibodies and antiviral drugs work, both should be taken very close to when a person is infected, preferably even before they experience symptoms – and ideally less than five days after the diagnosis or symptoms appear. The earlier the substances are in the body, the stronger they can be to overwhelm the SARS-CoV-2 virus before it can take over the immune system.

For those who never feel sick enough to need them, the drugs may not be necessary. However, for those who become ill but not immediately after infection, it may be more difficult to hit the sweet spot of starting one of these treatments at the right time, as they all require a doctor’s prescription. The Biden Administration’s Test-to-Treat program is intended to streamline access to the drugs, however has not proved so effective.

And it’s all only for those who are most vulnerable to developing severe COVID-19. For most people who are able to recover from infection without serious side effects, more studies need to be done to assess how safe and effective antiviral treatments are, especially against new variants like Omicron.

These ongoing studies are also looking at long-term COVID symptoms to determine if long-term effects of even mild illness may have adverse effects on people’s health. If so, it would be a stronger argument for expanding the population that can be treated with COVID-19 therapies.

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