Health Canada has authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral antiviral pill, Paxlovid.
According to a news release posted on the Government of Canada website, the pill is approved for adults suffering from mild to moderate COVID-19. The pills will be used in patients who are at risk for severe outcomes.
The pills can be taken at home, according to the press release. This is the first COVID-19 treatment option that can be taken at home. Other authorized treatments must be administered in a hospital.
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The treatment should begin as soon as possible after a COVID-19 diagnosis, according to Health Canada. It should be prescribed within five days of the onset of symptoms.
A positive COVID-19 test is required to access the treatment. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said that positive rapid tests could be used to confirm the diagnosis if PCR test results are taking longer than five days or if patients cannot access a PCR test. Many provinces have limited who is able to access PCR tests due to increased demand.
“The treatment consists of two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir taken together by mouth twice per day for five days,” the press release said.
Health Canada received the submission request from Pfizer on December 1. Laboratory tests indicate that the oral antiviral pills are effective against the Omicron variant.
Health Canada, the benefits of Paxlovid outweigh the risks, but the antiviral pills could have interactions with other drugs. Canada signed a contract with Pfizer to initially purchase one million doses of the oral antiviral pills.
“While there is currently limited global supply of Paxlovid, we are working to find a delivery schedule,” Dr. Tam said at a technical briefing.
Dr. Tam emphasized that the antiviral pills are not a replacement for getting vaccinated.