"Ask the Expert" articles provide information and insights from MSU scientists, researchers and scholars about national and global issues, complex research and general-interest subjects based on their areas of academic expertise and study. They may feature historical information, background, research findings, or offer tips.
Peter Gulick, a professor of medicine at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and infectious disease expert, answers questions about medications being used to fight COVID-19
What is Paxlovid and what is the medication’s main use? Was this medication created specifically to treat COVID-19?
Paxlovid is an antiviral agent that works directly on COVID-19 no matter what variant it is. It is viewed as a major step forward in the fight against the virus since it reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in high-risk patients. In late 2021, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization of Paxlovid for people at high risk of severe COVID-19. It’s a 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 the medication’s main use? Was this medication created specifically to treat COVID-19?
Molnupiravir is another antiviral medication that is a mutagen, which means it causes the coronavirus to mutate to forms that are not able to replicate anymore. It is also used specifically for COVID-19 regardless of the variant.
Who qualifies for these medications?
These medications are mainly for people who have early COVID-19 infections and are only effective for those with symptoms for five or less days. They were developed for people who are either unvaccinated, 65 and older, immunocompromised or have comorbid diseases, all of which are groups who are at risk of serious disease if infected with the virus.
Will this help people avoid severe illness?
The Paxlovid is 89% effective in prevention of hospitalization and serious illness, while Molnupiravir is only 30% effective. Another drug, Remdisavir, is also an antiviral that can be given to exposed patients with symptoms up to seven days. It has to be given as an IV infusion for three days as an outpatient procedure. It is 89% effective to prevent 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 is by getting vaccinations with a booster. Additionally, it’s important to wear a mask when in high risk areas like rooms with a lot of people or a poorly ventilated area. This is especially important if you are at high risk or immune compromised.
Why are these medications important?
These medications are important because they are oral and can be used no matter what the variant and prevent you from getting a serious Covid-19 infection, especially those unvaccinated or immune compromised where they may not respond to the vaccine. There are more of these antivirals being developed against COVID-19.