COVID-19: Pfizer’s antiviral pill approved by Health Canada

COVID-19. Health Canada approved the combination of two antivirals, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (PAXLOVID), for the treatment of adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of progressing to severe disease, including risk of hospitalization or death.

First of all, it should be noted that nirmatrelvir, the active substance in PAXLOVID, blocks the reproduction of the virus.

Until now, approved COVID-19 medications had to be taken in a hospital or health care facility. PAXLOVID is the first anticovid treatment that can be taken at home. It should be used as soon as possible after the diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of the onset of symptoms. Treatment consists of two nirmatrelvir tablets and one ritonavir tablet taken at the same time orally twice a day for five days.

Health Canada received Pfizer’s application for PAXLOVID on December 1 and conducted an expedited review. Pfizer submitted data to the Ministry continuously throughout the review process, as new information came in, so that a decision could be made as quickly as possible. Among these data were the results of clinical trials of PAXLOVID conducted in patients who had not been vaccinated and who had not been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Although the benefits of PAXLOVID have been shown to outweigh the risks, it may interact with other medications in some patients. Therefore, patients are advised to discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with their physician.

As with all COVID-19 health products, Health Canada will continue to monitor the safety and efficacy of PAXLOVID once it is on the market. Pfizer will continue to provide more data, including on the potential effects of existing or emerging variants of concern. If new issues are identified, Health Canada will act immediately and contact Canadians.

Filomena Tassi, Minister for Utilities and Procurement, announced today that the Government of Canada has received an initial shipment of 30,400 courses of PAXLOVID. An additional 120,000 treatments are expected by the end of March.

Please note that no drug, not even PAXLOVID, can replace vaccination. This remains the most effective strategy to prevent serious illness caused by COVID-19 infection. The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada continue to strongly recommend vaccination for all eligible Canadians, including those who are pregnant, may become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

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