- The antiviral medication Paxlovid appears to reduce the chance of developing long COVID.
- A recent study found that Paxlovid lowered the relative risk of developing 10 of 13 long-term health problems by an average of 26%.
- Paxlovid provided protection against some heart problems, blood clots, kidney damage, muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and two neurological conditions.
- Paxlovid did not lessen the chance of developing liver disease, cough, or diabetes after a COVID-19 infection.
- While Paxlovid is not a panacea, it may be one of the things that can help reduce the risk of long COVID.
As COVID-19 continues to affect millions of people worldwide, the risk of long COVID has become a growing concern. Long COVID refers to a wide range of symptoms that persist even after the acute phase of COVID-19 infection has passed. These symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pain, and neurological conditions, among others. Researchers have been exploring different treatments and medications to reduce the risk of long COVID. One such medication is Paxlovid, an antiviral drug made by Pfizer. A recent study has suggested that Paxlovid may reduce the risk of developing long COVID.
In a study of medical records from the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system, researchers found that Paxlovid reduced the risk of developing 10 of 13 long-term health problems. The drug lowered the relative risk of developing the conditions by 26%, on average. Specifically, Paxlovid provided protection against some heart problems, blood clots, kidney damage, muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and two neurological conditions. However, the drug did not lessen the chance of developing liver disease, cough, or diabetes after a COVID-19 infection.
The study included more than 280,000 patients who had a positive COVID-19 test in 2022 and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness. Nearly 36,000 of those patients received Paxlovid within five days of their positive test result. The researchers compared the health outcomes of those who took Paxlovid with those who did not. Paxlovid takers had a reduced risk of post-COVID conditions, regardless of whether the infection was their first or if they’d had prior bouts with earlier variants. The drug also lowered long COVID risk for unvaccinated people, for those who were vaccinated with one or two doses, and for people who had at least one booster shot.
Limitations of the Study
While the study provides some promising results, some researchers dispute whether it fully captures what long COVID is. The condition is notoriously challenging to define. There isn’t a medical code for some of the long COVID symptoms, making it difficult to pull them out of a medical record review. Additionally, most patients in the Veterans Affairs system are white males, whereas long COVID patients tend to be female. However, the study has a large number of participants, which allows researchers to see effects they might not be able to uncover in smaller randomized control trials.
The Potential of Paxlovid
Although Paxlovid may not be a panacea, it is one of the things that can help reduce the risk of long COVID. According to Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, director of the post-COVID recovery clinic at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, “It may be one of the things that can help, or that can decrease the risk, but it’s not going to take it away completely.” Despite its potential, some patients who have taken Paxlovid are still showing up in long COVID clinics.