Dr Michelle O'Driscoll: Exciting development in fight against Covid-19

There's a very exciting development this month in the fight against Covid-19, writes Michelle O'Driscoll
Dr Michelle O'Driscoll: Exciting development in fight against Covid-19

Vaccination and booster doses are the best available protection against Covid-19. However there are new treatments too to tackle the virus once it is diagnosed. Picture: Stock

OUR journey through the Covid-19 pandemic has been a tumultuous one, from dealing with an unknown virus, fighting various strains and mutations, to navigating the vaccination process and the emergence of long Covid.

We know vaccination and booster doses are the best available protection against Covid-19. However, one of the newest progressions in the fight has been the development of treatments for the virus once it has been contracted. Such treatments began as just being available in the hospital setting through an infusion in your arm. However, a very exciting development this month has been the recent roll-out of an oral medication called Paxlovid, which can be prescribed by your GP and taken at home.

It is very important to note that Paxlovid is not suitable for everybody. It is specifically indicated for certain groups of people over the age of 18 who are at highest risks of death or complications from Covid-19. The HSE has provided a full list of who falls into this category. It takes into account vaccination status, age, and any pre-existing conditions, immune problems and medications.

Paxlovid is a five-day course of tablets that need to be started within five days of symptom onset to be effective and requires a positive PCR test to be prescribed. It reduces the virus’s ability to multiply in the body, therefore reducing its impact and preventing serious illness from occurring.

It is not suitable in certain situations, for example in severe kidney or liver disease, or if there is a known allergy to any of its ingredients.

You don’t need to be in hospital to be given Paxlovid. Your GP can prescribe it for you, and there is a short time delay after it has been prescribed to allow for the product to be delivered to the pharmacy for dispensing.

The correct dose of Paxlovid is very important, and will be decided by your GP based on your kidney function. If your kidneys struggle to filter at maximum capacity, a reduced dose of Paxlovid may be advised. The pharmacist that dispenses the medications will explain how they have adapted the pack to accommodate for this if needed, by removing some of the tablets in order to reduce the dose.

Paxlovid may cause some side-effects, the most common ones being headache, diarrhoea and vomiting. The patient information leaflet that comes with the product gives a full list of these. Because Paxlovid is a new product, it’s especially important to report any suspected adverse affects that might occur, so that further information can be gathered.

Because of the ingredients in Paxlovid, it is known to interact with lots of different medications, and to affect their levels or how well they work in the body. Some of these interactions can be very serious or even fatal. For this reason it is vital for your doctor, pharmacist and hospital consultant to be aware of all the medications, over the counter medicines, vitamins or herbal products that you’re taking. It would be wise to keep an up to date written list of these medications to ensure that you don’t forget any of them.

Sometimes, Paxlovid may not be suitable because of these medicines, or adjustments may need to be made to other medications for safety reasons if starting Paxlovid.

If you contract Covid and think that you may be eligible for treatment with Paxlovid, have a conversation with your healthcare providers in the first instance. The earlier you make contact, the better your chance of meeting the five day window. They will screen your individual situation to see if you’re a candidate, and maybe such treatment could ease the symptoms and aid your recovery.

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