Pills to fight COVID-19 compared and explained

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 3:42 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir are now both available in Charlottesville to help fight COVID-19, but in limited amounts and with some drawbacks.

“We have like two medications that are available for use, and they’re still in somewhat restricted supplies,” UVA Health Infectious Disease Specialist Doctor Bill Petri said Wednesday, January 19.

Doctor Brooke Rossheim from the Virginia Department of Health says both medications are currently difficult to find in pharmacies. The Virginia Department of Health decides which pharmacies will receive these drugs, and how much, based off of how much COVID-19 is burdening a given area.

“Right now, we are getting our allocations of Paxlovid which is the Pfizer drug, and Molnupiravir, which is the Merck drug, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. So every two weeks, we get an allocation of product,” Dr. Rossheim said.

Paxlovid appears to reduce hospitalization and death by up to 88%, while Molnupiravir is reported to do the same by 30%.

However, there are some known medical issues: “Paxlovid has a lot of drug interactions, and quite often keeps you from being able to use it,” Petri said.

UVA Health Infectious Disease Specialist Doctor Patrick Jackson says the trials when testing both drugs were not head-to-head, but studying both results shows a significant difference: “The major problem with Paxlovid is that it has a lot of interactions with other drugs, things like anticoagulants, things like anti seizure medications and transplant medicines,” Jackson said.

Paxlovid may interact with blood thinners and certain anti-depressants.

“Molnupiravir is a good choice because it doesn’t interact with any other medicines, but it doesn’t work as well as the Pfizer drug,” Petri said.

Also, these medications are not for everyone: “So they’re really trying to be used to prevent people that are highest risk of becoming severely COVID infected. The elderly people that have some underlying heart, lung, liver, kidney disease or something that would put them at a higher risk,” Dr. Petri said.

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