Doctors Issue Warning About Mixing Paxlovid With Certain Heart Medications

The announcement of an oral antiviral drug therapy treatment, Paxlovid, becoming available to help prevent COVID-19 symptoms from becoming more severe, had many Americans feeling some relief. However, on Wednesday, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology announced that for some individuals, there's a new concerning risk. The paper advised that doctors should practice caution, being careful to evaluate patients with heart conditions or heart disease who take certain cardiovascular medications before prescribing the treatment, CNN reports.

Paxlovid was authorized for use against the COVID-19 virus by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2021 as an emergency treatment option in an attempt to reduce the number of hospitalizations. The therapy treatment is limited to individuals 12 and older who have tested positive for the virus and are at a high risk of developing symptoms that would be severe enough to require hospitalization (via FDA). Potential patients must also be above 40kg (88 pounds) in order to be eligible to receive the drugs.

Overview of Paxlovid

The treatment consists of three pills, two of which contain an enzyme critical to COVID-19's functionality, according to Yale Medicine. The third medication is a powerful antiviral medication that helps to prevent the COVID-19 virus from infecting otherwise healthy cells. The oral therapy needs to be administered within five days of showing COVID-19 symptoms, as explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It requires the individual to take the three-pill dosage across a five-day period for the most effectiveness (via Yale Medicine).

Time reported that the therapy treatment had produced significant results, reducing hospitalization rates and death by up to 89% for the unvaccinated population. Yet, there are concerns about Paxlovid's potential dangerous interactions with commonly prescribed cardiovascular medications. CNN reports that the Journal of the American College of Cardiology provided an extensive list of cardiovascular medications and their risk association when taken with Paxlovid. While there are a number of medications that are safe, some statins, blood thinners, and heart failure therapies have a very concerning list of possible interactions.

How Paxlovid may interact with your heart medications

According to CNN, for patients who are prescribed Paxlovid and already taking blood thinners, there's an increased risk for bleeding. Other medications pose potentially deadly interactions such as toxicity in the liver or low blood pressure. This includes many cholesterol-reducing statin medications, as explained by Time. 

Paxlovid is not an approved treatment, but instead has authorization as an emergency treatment, according to the FDA. In fact, the drug's authorization is intended for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma, lung cancer, or those who are immunocompromised (via Time). While the drug has proved to be effective in limiting the severity of symptoms, these effects differ for the vaccinated population, with only about a 57% effectiveness rate for those who have at least one risk factor that is known to increase COVID-19 symptoms' severity. For those individuals who are at mild to moderate risk of developing severe symptoms and opted for the COVID-19 vaccine, there is little result from Paxlovid.

If you are taking medications and have tested positive for COVID-19, your doctor can determine if Paxlovid is right for you.