The fight against COVID-19 continues: Antiviral therapies can treat the illness and improve outcomes

Much has been learned about COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic more than two years ago. As we have learned more about the disease and ways to prevent it, we have also learned more effective ways to treat the infection and improve outcomes in those who are sick. Antivirals are now an important treatment method to consider in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

“Viruses can’t replicate on their own,” says Melanie Patton, MD, a family medicine physician and associate chief medical officer at HonorHealth Medical Group. “They need a host in order to replicate, but antiviral treatment therapies prevent that from happening.”

These antiviral medications target viruses to reduce the number of viral particles that are produced, thus reducing the risk of serious disease.

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Are you eligible to receive COVID-19 antiviral treatments?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorizations for two oral antiviral medications to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 – Paxlovid and Molnupiravir. Although Molnupiravir isn’t widely used in our area, Paxlovid is available.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, you’ll need to meet specific requirements in order to receive antiviral treatments.

Criteria for Paxlovid eligibility include:

  • A positive COVID-19 test
  • Age 12 years or older weighing at least 88 lbs.
  • A high risk of severe COVID-19 disease progression

“We’ve seen that these antiviral treatments are most effective when they are used as soon as possible after your symptoms have started, but definitely within the first five days of symptoms,” says Dr. Patton.

It’s still best to prevent severe illness through vaccination

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to fluctuate, it’s important to not let your guard down. Stay up-to-date on your vaccinations and boosters and follow other prevention strategies to avoid illness as much as possible. It’s important to understand that antiviral therapies don’t replace the need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“If you do get sick, remember that antivirals can be an effective treatment option for patients at higher risk for hospitalization and disease progression and can help get you on the road to recovery much faster,” says Dr. Patton. “Your doctor will need to review your medical history and potential drug interactions to determine if one of these treatments is right for you. Please schedule an appointment as soon as possible with your primary care provider or visit one of our urgent care locations to evaluate you for the appropriate treatment.”

Learn more

Talk to your doctor to discuss your options. You can also find out where treatments are available in Arizona.


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