Paxlovid lowers long-term Covid risk, Veterans Affairs study shows

According to a recent study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Paxlovid is an antiviral pill that lowers the risk of death and hospitalization from Covid-19.

The preprint was posted online on Saturday as a preprint. It analyzed electronic records of more than 56,000 veterans infected with Covid-19. This includes more than 9,000 who received Paxlovid within five days.

Paxlovid treatment was associated with a 26% lower risk of several long Covid conditions such as heart disease, blood disorders, fatigue, liver disease, kidney disease, or muscle pain. This corresponded to 2.3 fewer long Covid cases per 100 people three years after diagnosis. Paxlovid reduced the likelihood of death or hospitalization following acute Covid-19.

The analysis showed that there was no statistically significant association between Paxlovid use and the risk of developing two long Covid conditions, cough, and a new diabetes diagnosis.

The study was uploaded to the preprint server, medRxiv. It has not been peer-reviewed nor published in any medical journal.

The average age of the patients in the study was 65. They were all diagnosed with Covid-19 from March 1 through June 30, 2022. All of them had at least one risk factor that could lead to severe Covid-19. This included being older, diabetic, or a current smoker. The study found that Paxlovid decreased the risk of long Covid among people who had not been vaccinated or boosted and those who had just received their first Covid-19 infection or re-infected.

“Paxlovid lowers the risk for severe COVID-19 during the acute phase and now we have evidence that this medication can help reduce long-term COVID,” Dr. Ziyad al-Aly, chief of research and development at VA St. Louis Health Care System, stated in a press release. “This treatment could prove to be an asset in addressing the serious problem of long COVID.”

There are some limitations to the study, such as that most of those included were White men and women, which could limit its usefulness more broadly. Although Paxlovid use was only captured through the VA system, it only considered 12 long Covid conditions. However, many people with long Covid experience a variety of symptoms.

Many people with Covid-19 have a variety of symptoms that last beyond their initial diagnosis. However, there is no treatment for Covid-19. Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment for Covid-19, is a combination of a newer antiviral drug, Nirmatrelvir, and an older drug, Ritonavir. It is available to anyone as young as 12 years old and has been shown in severe cases to significantly reduce the risk of death and hospitalization.

Pfizer makes the drug and it comes in pills that can be taken for five days. It is best to start the drug within five days of symptoms onset. Researchers noted that it’s not known if a longer duration, higher dose, or both could reduce long Covid risk. Last month, the National Institutes of Health announced that it would begin a Paxlovid study as a treatment option for long-term Covid patients.

The VA study authors wrote that “the totality of the evidence suggests the need for improved uptake and use of nirmatrelvir during the acute phase to not only prevent progression to severe acute diseases but also to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes afterward.”

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