After two years of trying to eradicate Covid-19, the United States is currently experiencing the strongest outbreak of a pandemic to date. But there is good news: With 73 percent of the population vaccinated, hospitalization rates are dropping even as infection rates are rising. And those infected today actually have treatment options available to them; something that people infected a year ago couldn’t say.
Current treatment options
“There are now a number of important treatment options for ambulatory patients who develop Covid-19,” explained David Margolis, MD, MPH, head of infectious diseases at Brii Bio.
One of the first treatments available was monoclonal antibody treatments.
“[These treatments] specifically target the SARS-CoV-2 virus, preventing binding and attachment to human cells, dramatically reducing the risk of more serious disease, ”explained Margolis. “Three different monoclonal antibody therapies have been approved so far as part of the US EUA process.”
These antibody treatments require injections and infusions, which usually occur in a hospital setting. But the treatment itself can be completed in a matter of hours, with patients going home the same day.
“More recently, two oral treatment options have also demonstrated the ability to reduce progression to more serious disease, with clinical trials conducted in individuals starting treatment within 5 days of symptom onset,” said Margolis.
These two treatments include Paxlovid from Pfizer and Molnupiravir from Merck.
Pharmacist Ralph Pisano, RPh, said that due to Paxlovid’s success in preventing serious illness, “the US government has agreed to purchase over 10 million treatments for over $ 5 billion.”
Better yet, he said neither Paxlovid nor Molnupiravir have shown any risk of significant side effects so far, although the long-term effects have yet to be studied.
“Pfizer’s pill is an inhibitor of the SARS-CoV-2-3CL protease, a familiar mechanism, while Merck’s pill disrupts the virus’s ability to replicate,” Pisano explained. “Because of their convenience and effectiveness, the medicines from Merck and Pfizer have been compared to Tamiflu, the now ubiquitous influenza treatment.
Margolis added: “IV remdesivir, initially studied in hospitalized patients, has also shown benefits for ambulatory patients at high risk of progression to serious disease. “
The key, however, is to seek treatment early. As Margolis explained, “in patients with severe disease, only a few treatments have shown clinical benefit, including the use of IV steroids to reduce mortality and IV Remdesivir to limit the duration of the disease. certain individuals. “
Who should seek treatment?
So, if treatment options are most effective when continued early in the diagnosis, often before symptoms worsen, who should seek treatment when they recover that positive test?
Margolis said: “Treatment should be considered for any patient with symptomatic Covid-19 who has risk factors for progression to more serious disease. “
According to him, those with the highest risk factors include:
- Individuals over 60 years old
- Patients with other health problems, such as diabetes, asthma, or cancer
- Patients with a history of smoking
Effectiveness of treatment
Patients may not remember to contact their doctor and seek treatment if they do not yet have severe symptoms. But these treatments have been shown to be effective in preventing serious illness, which is exactly why those most at risk should.
“In patients with mild to moderate symptoms, treatments such as monoclonal antibodies can be very effective in preventing progression to more serious disease,” explained Margolis, adding that the oral drug Paxlovid has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and 89% of deaths.
“These data suggest that ensuring patients have access to therapy can play a very important role in reducing the need for hospitalization or the progression to more serious illness,” he said. “This benefits both individuals and healthcare systems, which are under tremendous pressure in treating COVID-19 patients, especially now during this surge of omicron cases which is increasing in the United States and the United States. world. “
Pisano was also quick to tout the benefits of these treatments in combating the worst impacts of Covid-19.
“It’s hard to overstate how the expansion beyond vaccines with other methods of preventing Covid-19 hospitalizations will be a game-changer,” he said. “The treatments will also help ease the financial toll of the pandemic. Based on the tariff paid by the federal government, the price of Pfizer’s drug is approximately $ 500 per patient. Merck is even higher at $ 700-800. While this may seem high, it is a small fraction of the cost of hospitalization and therefore the overall savings to the healthcare system. “
Can children access these treatment options?
It’s one thing to be self-diagnosed with Covid-19, but for many parents the real concern is having their children diagnosed. This is why they may wonder what treatment options are available for their children, especially those with health conditions that present an additional risk factor.
“Many US FDA EUA-approved treatment options have been approved up to the age of 12, including monoclonal antibodies and Paxlovid, Pfizer’s new oral treatment,” said Margolis .
In fact, since December 3e, two antibody treatments have been approved for all pediatric patients.
“Parents of younger children who contract COVID-19, especially those with high-risk illnesses such as cancer or immunosuppression, should contact their health care provider to see if they may be eligible for an ongoing clinical trial, ”said Margolis.
As with everything related to Covid-19, we are learning more every day. This is why Margolis explained, “The data for various treatment options and the impact of different variants of this virus is changing rapidly, but there are a number of very effective treatment options that can help you or the limbs. of your family who may have contracted Covid-19. , including treatment options that may reduce your risk of needing hospitalization and developing serious illness or dying.
So, if you or a loved one tests positive for Covid-19, feel free to contact your family doctor to see what options may be available to you.
Vaccinated or not, the need for treatment can arise for all of us at some point. Because, as Pisano said, “groundbreaking cases have shown that vaccines alone are not enough to rule the human or financial cost of the pandemic. “
Still, he hopes the introduction of treatment options will help allay fears surrounding Covid-19 for good.
“2020 was the year of the shutdown,” he said. “2021 was the year of the vaccine. 2022 could be the year of Covid treatment. Hopefully 2023 is defined by something unrelated to the virus. “
It is a goal with which we can all step into the New Year.