COVID Antiviral Pills Cause Life-Threatening Reactions When Used With Many Common Meds: FDA

By Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
December 31, 2021 Updated: January 4, 2022

Pfizer’s antiviral oral drug developed to treat COVID-19 can cause severe or life-threatening reactions when used with common medications including some anticoagulants, antidepressants, and cholesterol-lowering statins, according to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fact sheet (pdf).

Paxlovid is the first oral medication of its kind authorized by the FDA to treat COVID-19, with the aim of reducing the need for hospitalization before patients become too ill from the infection.

“This authorization provides a new tool to combat COVID-19 at a crucial time in the pandemic as new variants emerge and promises to make antiviral treatment more accessible to patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The FDA on Dec. 22, 2021, granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill as a treatment for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 in patients aged 12 and older. The FDA doesn’t recommend Paxlovid for those with severe kidney or liver disease.

Paxlovid consists of a cocktail of two drugs, the first being nirmatrelvir, which stops the SARS-CoV-2 virus from replicating, while the second component, ritonavir, acts to prolong nirmatrelvir’s effects.

In November 2021, the Biden administration purchased some 10 million courses of the drug in a more than $5 billion agreement.

“Pending EUA, U.S. will receive doses starting in 2021 and throughout 2022 as part of contract agreement with Pfizer,” the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Nov. 18, 2021, emphasized the importance of “getting vaccinated” even when Paxlovid becomes available.

“Getting vaccinated remains the most important action anyone can take to help protect themselves and others and end this pandemic, but for people who do get sick in the future and are at risk of severe outcomes, having pills they can take to keep them out of the hospital could be a lifesaver,” Becerra said. “This agreement would help ensure millions of doses of this drug would be available to the American people if it is authorized.”

In December 2021, Pfizer said that the pill is able to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus by 89 percent when taken shortly after initial symptoms.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Dec. 8, 2021, that shipments of the pill had arrived in the United States, “so the product will be available this month if it’s approved.”