The FDA has approved Pfizer’s antiviral pill Covid for people over 12 years of age

The FDA has issued an emergency license for Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid, making it the first oral method to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. The treatment is intended for people at high risk of 12 years of age and older who may progress to more severe COVID infection. The best part? The FDA says it could be available for use within a few days, making it another tool as we face the wave of Omicron variants.

Paxlovid is available on prescription only and is intended to be taken within five days of the first observation of COVID symptoms. According to Pfizer tests, it can prevent hospitalization or death by 88 percent in high-risk patients. The treatment, which can be prescribed to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, consists of 30 tablets that are taken over five days. It includes the protein inhibitor nirmatrelvir and rotinavir, which prevents the breakdown of this inhibitor in your body. Side effects include damage to the senses of taste, high blood pressure, diarrhea and muscle aches.

“This approval provides a new tool to combat COVID-19 at a crucial time in the pandemic as new variants emerge and promises to make antiviral treatment more accessible to patients at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

So far, the United States has ordered enough pills to treat 10 million people The New York Times reports. The company plans to deliver enough tablets to cover 65,000 Americans within a week. After that, production is expected to increase, with 150,000 courses delivered in January and 150,000 in February. It also won’t be the only antiviral pill: Merck’s competitive treatment is expected to be approved soon and will likely be more affordable than Pfizer’s. However, Merck’s option is far less effective – tests show that it can only prevent hospitalization or death by 30 percent. (Still, it’s better than no treatment.)

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