Study Shows That Paxlovid May Be The Key In Avoiding Long COVID

Using a combination formula of the antiviral drugs nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, the focus on Paxlovid has primarily been on its short-term effects (via CNN). Noted for its ability to decrease one's chances for hospitalization and COVID-19-related death when taken in the immediate days following infection, new preliminary research now suggests that the drug may also have long-term benefits to offer COVID patients.

In a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study available as a preprint on MedRxiv, researchers looked at Paxlovid's potential to diminish symptoms of long COVID in patients months after having contracted the virus. The study team gathered health data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pertaining to patients who had developed COVID between March and June 2022 and who were considered at risk for long COVID. The average participant age was 65. The researchers examined over 47,000 veterans who had not been given any antibodies or antiviral medications following infection, as well as more than 9,200 patients who had been treated with Paxlovid within five days following a confirmed positive test result. The study team focused on 12 possible long COVID symptoms including ischemic heart disease, pulmonary embolism, fatigue, liver disease, muscle pain, neurocognitive impairment, and more.

Paxlovid treatment may reduce long COVID symptoms

The research findings showed that those who had taken Paxlovid in the days immediately following a positive COVID test result were 26% less likely to experience prolonged symptoms of long COVID, reports Bloomberg. For comparison, researchers likened these numbers to 2.3 fewer long COVID cases per 100 patients in a three-month period. Risk reduction was observed amongst both those who were vaccinated and unvaccinated, as well as those experiencing first-time infection or repeat infections. Five-day treatment of COVID with Paxlovid was also linked with a 30% lower risk for hospitalization for up to about three months after diagnosis. Additionally, the risk of COVID-related death was nearly cut in half for those who had received a five-day course of the drug.

"This treatment could be an important asset to address the serious issue of long COVID," the leader of the study Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly stated in a public announcement, reported via CNN. While further research is needed involving a larger sample size, some experts believe these findings demonstrate the need to start expanding Paxlovid's use. One such expert is Bob Wachter, chair of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who told Bloomberg, "Paxlovid uptake remains well below where it should be given its benefits, and these data should convince more doctors to prescribe it and more patients to take it -– particularly patients over 60, in whom the benefits in preventing hospitalization and death are best demonstrated."