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Antiviral pill Paxlovid available for high-risk Covid-19 patients

Wonder drug: the paxlovid pill is helping Covid-19 sufferers stay out of hospital (Photograph supplied)

An over-the-counter prescription medicine now available on island is proving effective in reducing symptoms of patients who have Covid-19.

The Paxlovid pill – developed by drug company Pfizer, which also manufactures the Covid vaccine – is also helping reduce Covid-related hospital admissions.

The drug was approved the US Food and Drug Administration in December 2021, but did not become available on island until recently, after it was approved by the island’s Chief Medical Officer, Ayo Oyinloye.

During a recent press conference, Dr Oyinloye said that there had been a drop in deaths and hospital admissions as a result, in part, of “a lot more therapeutics on the island”.

He said: “There are oral antivirals, there's oxygen, and there’s steroids for treating people who are infected in the hospital. And that means that the number is low to start with and those that end up in hospital, thankfully, don’t have to stay as long.

“We’re still seeing deaths … so this is by no means over.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health added: “It has been acknowledged by health professionals that Paxlovid is one of the best oral agents available for treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 infections with evidence to prevent hospital admission and decrease mortality.”

The pill is also proving effective in combating BA5 – the latest variant of the virus which is now believed to be on the island.

There are limited supplies of the pill on island and only those with Covid and at high risk of hospital admission are being prescribed it.

In an e-mail to clients, one medical practice wrote: “With the most recent upsurge in cases of Covid-19 and the spike in hospital admission, we felt it was important to reach out to our community to make you aware of the availability of treatments for Covid-19.

“We now have a limited supply of antiviral medications available in Bermuda which can be prescribed for high-risk patients. These medications are used for individuals who are at risk of progression to severe disease, including hospital admission and death.

“The medication we are using most commonly in the outpatient setting is called Paxlovid. For those patients who fit the criteria, we are finding that they are not ending up in hospital and are recovering more quickly than we would otherwise expect.”

Paxlovid is now available from the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital pharmacy on prescription.