ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The World Health Organization recently announced it strongly recommends administering Pfizer’s Paxlovid to patients with non-severe COVID who carry a high risk for hospitalization.

Dr. Jeff Harp from Highland Family Medicine discussed the treatment and its effectiveness Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

Wasn’t Paxlovid already approved in the U.S.?

Yes, provisionally. In December 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Paxlovid for the treatment of mild-to-moderate coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kilograms or about 88 pounds) with positive direct Covid testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death. This includes most people with chronic disease and everyone pregnant, recently pregnant, or over 60-years-old.

Why is the WHO recommending it now?

The recommendation is based on new data from several randomized controlled trials involving over 3000 patients published in the BMJ. Researchers reported 84 fewer hospital admissions per 1,000 patients who received nirmatrelvir/ritonavir within 5 days of testing positive. A previous study showed a 90% decrease in hospitalization and death.

How does it work?

Paxlovid consists of nirmatrelvir, which stops the virus from reproducing, and ritonavir, which slows down nirmatrelvir’s breakdown to help it remain in the body for a longer period. Paxlovid is usually administered with two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir taken together orally twice daily for five days. Paxlovid is available by prescription only and should be started as soon as possible after a diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of symptom onset.

Are there any risks?

Yes. People with severe liver or kidney disease should not take it. The same is true for people on medications that might interfere with the elimination of the drug, making levels too high or too low. The list of medications to avoid includes some of the medications which treat blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart rhythm problems, erectile dysfunction, seizures, HIV, depression, thought disorders, and cancer, along with some blood thinners

What should I do if I test positive?

Contact your primary care clinician as soon as possible for advice about whether you may benefit from and are not likely to be harmed by Paxlovid. Remember that Paxlovid’s availability does not change the recommendation that all individuals be fully vaccinated and boosted according to current recommendations.

Where should we go for more information?

Go to the NIH website — nih.gov — and search for Paxlovid.