MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CBS 58) – It’s a long-awaited milestone: the country is adding another tool to fight the COVID-19 virus. Doctors said it comes at a good time as the Omicron variant spreads and hospitals fill up.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval to Pfizer’s antiviral pill, Paxlovid, on Wednesday, December 22nd.
“I think it will change the treatment landscape around COVID disease,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Chief Health Policy Advisor for Milwaukee County.
Paxlovid, a faster, cheaper way to treat early infections, will be the first pill patients can take at home to help fight COVID. The idea is to prevent the virus from doing its worst.
“Going to the hospital, getting an IV and an extended IV – it costs a lot of resources. a lot easier for everyone involved, ”said Weston.
The pill has slight side effects. Studies show it was 89 percent effective in reducing hospital admissions and deaths.
“Right now is a great time to take additional measures to keep people out of hospitals,” said Dr. Dan Shirley, UW Health’s Infection Prevention Medical Director.
But both doctors warn that there are limitations. Patients must take the pill early – within three to five days of infection. Weston said the country needs better access to testing. There are several other unknowns and supply concerns as well.
“How do we get it to the people? And especially at the point where people are being tested so we know they have COVID at the right interval, where it will help. And then who will prescribe? it on?” asked Shirley.
Another treatment may soon be approved. Merck’s COVID pill called molnupiravir is expected to be approved in the coming days or weeks. Both pills are said to be effective against Omicron.
However, doctors said that prevention is always preferable to treatment, so people can’t forget about the best tool to fight COVID: vaccinations.
“It’s the vaccine, it’s the booster, and it’s having that pill in your back pocket in case you’ve taken this and you still have a breakthrough infection and you’re at high risk,” Weston said.