It's good to have a plan in case you test positive for COVID. Know your risk level for severe disease. If you are at high risk, there are treatments available.
After a positive test at home, a positive rapid antigen test usually does not need to be repeated to confirm infection. Follow the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on isolation.
If you develop symptoms, contact your health provider. If you don't have a doctor, go to an urgent care or community health center. Depending on your age and other health conditions, medication may be prescribed.
Two antiviral pills to treat COVID received emergency use authorization from the federal Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 22. They are recommended for people who test positive for COVID-19, are symptomatic and are at high risk of becoming sick enough with COVID to go to the hospital or die.
Here are answers to common questions about the medications:
What are the COVID antiviral pills?
Who is eligible for this drug treatment?
Paxlovid is recommended for adults and children over 12 years old (who weigh more than 88 pounds) with mild to moderate COVID symptoms, who have tested positive for COVID and are considered at high risk for severe disease. The treatment must be started within five days of the onset of symptoms. Molnupiravir is recommended for the same patients, except they must be 18 or older.
The CDC list of conditions that place a person at higher risk for severe disease includes cancer, diabetes, obesity, smoking, chronic lung diseases and heart conditions.
How effective are the oral medications for COVID?
If treatment is started within five days of the onset of symptoms, Paxlovid reduces the risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID by 88%, while molnupiravir reduces it by 30%. For this reason, molnupiravir is a second choice, after other treatments are ruled out.
Does this mean I don’t need to get the COVID vaccine?
These treatments do not take the place of vaccination.
"Immunity is much better than trying to treat COVID," said Dr. Ed Lifshitz, medical director of the New Jersey Department of Health's communicable disease service. He likens the new treatments to safety airbags in a car. "I'm happy my car has airbags, but I don't want to get in an accident where I need them," he said.
What is the difference between the oral medications for COVID?
Paxlovid is more effective than molnupiravir. However, Paxlovid is not recommended for people with liver or kidney disease. It interacts with certain types of drugs, such as blood thinners and oral contraceptives. Molnupiravir is not recommended for pregnant people. The federal government has prepared a side-by-side comparison of COVID treatments.
How do I get this medicine to take for COVID?
You can search by ZIP code on the "COVID Therapeutics Locator" website of the federal Health and Human Services department at covid-19-therapeutics-locator-dhhs.hub.arcgis.com.
Which pharmacies near me have Paxlovid and Molnupiravir?
In New Jersey, thousands of patient courses have been supplied to retail chain drug stores — mainly CVS — and hospitals. Four community health centers with pharmacies also have the pills to dispense. They are Zufall Health Center, with locations in central and North Jersey, the Henry J. Austin Health Center in Trenton, the Lakewood Resource and Referral Center/CHEMED, and the Eric B. Chandler Health Center in New Brunswick.
Do you need a prescription for Paxlovid or Molnupiravir?
Yes. A health care provider authorized to write prescriptions, such as a doctor, physician's assistant or advanced practice nurse, must give you a prescription.
Under the "Test to Treat" initiative announced by President Joe Biden in March, a person who tests positive for COVID at a pharmacy that has a health care provider with prescribing authority on staff can get the medication immediately. A CVS with a Minute Clinic is a common example.
How much do these COVID pills cost?
It's free. Medication that has an emergency use authorization is purchased by the federal government and provided for free.
How does this medicine work?
The authorized oral antiviral treatment works by targeting specific proteins on the coronavirus to prevent virus replication within the host cell. It's important to start the treatment within five days of symptoms, to halt the virus's replication.
How are the antiviral pills given?
Paxlovid is administered as three tablets taken together orally twice daily for five days, for a total of 30 tablets. Molnupiravir is administered as four 200 milligram capsules taken together every 12 hours for five days, for a total of 40 pills.
Can you take the antiviral pills to prevent COVID?
No. The antivirals pills are authorized only after a person has tested positive for COVID.
What are the antiviral COVID pill side effects?
Possible side effects of Paxlovid include impaired sense of taste, diarrhea, high blood pressure and muscle aches. Side effects observed in the clinical trial of molunupiravir included diarrhea, nausea and dizziness.
Lindy Washburn is a senior health care reporter for NorthJersey.com. To keep up-to-date about how changes in health care affect you and your family, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Treatments are available for COVID. What to do if you test positive