COVID-19 antivirals to be available in coming weeks

Local News

This image provided by Pfizer in October 2021 shows the company’s COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. U.S. health regulators on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021 authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus. (Pfizer via AP)

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced in a release two new COVID-19 oral antivirals will be available in Illinois later in January.

The antivirals, Paxlovid (Pfizer) and Molnupiravir (Merck), will be for those with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for becoming severely ill, including hospitalization or death.  Both antivirals will be by prescription only and will need to be taken as soon as possible after a COVID diagnosis and within five days of the beginning of symptoms. Paxlovid is expected to reduce the risk of hospitalizations by 89%, and Molnupiravir by about 30%.  Molnupiravir is meant for use when other treatment options are not available.

“These new oral antivirals add new tools to our toolbox to keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.  “While vaccination, including boosters, is still the best way to avoid infection and prevent severe illness from COVID-19, these new antivirals given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration can help treat those who get infected and have a higher risk of becoming severely ill.”

According to the release:

Molnupiravir is not authorized for use in patients who are pregnant or younger than 18 years of age because it may affect bone and cartilage growth.  Molnupiravir is intended to be used when other FDA-authorized treatments for COVID-19 are not accessible or are not clinically appropriate.  Providers must ensure that patients understand the safety risks of these therapeutics before prescribing them.

In addition to the oral antivirals, people can still receive monoclonal antibody treatment (mAb) to help prevent COVID-19 from progressing to a point where a person needs to be hospitalized.  Unlike the new oral antivirals, mAb are administered intravenously (infusion) or through several shots.  Both require a prescription.”

Illinois Department of Public Health

The Illinois Department of Public Health is working with pharmacies around the state to offer the antivirals.  The antivirals are free from the federal government but in limited supply.  Illinois will receive a renewed allocation of antivirals every two weeks. IDPH will provide a list of locations providing antivirals on the IDPH website as soon as participating pharmacies are finalized. 

For more information on COVID-19 treatment, click here

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