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More than 2.8 million courses of Pfizer Inc’s oral antiviral therapy Paxlovid have been made available in pharmacies across the United States, as the Biden administration works to improve access to the drug.
With the widespread use of Baxlovid, some patients have reported recurring symptoms of COVID-19 after completing treatment and experiencing improvement. Here’s the latest information on these bounces:
How common is it for a recurrence of COVID symptoms soon after Baxlovid treatment?
Dozens of individuals have reported rebounding COVID symptoms on social media or to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after taking baxlovid, but Pfizer notes that such experience is rare.
Pfizer said that of the more than 300,000 patients it monitors who received the 5-day treatment, about 1 in 3,000 — about 0.03% — reported a relapse after taking the pills.
That’s a lower rate than what Pfizer saw in its Paxlovid clinical trial, in which about 2% of participants saw a rebound in viral levels after completing treatment.
The Pfizer trial suggested that relapses may be a broader trend for COVID as a similar number of those who received a placebo also had a rebound in viral load levels.
Why do these repetitions occur?
The reason is not yet known. Some doctors have suggested that because the drug attacks the virus so quickly, some patients’ immune responses to COVID may be muted, allowing the virus to multiply again. Others said there may be a common characteristic that has yet to be identified among those experiencing a rebound.
It may be related to the virus itself, not Baxlovid, said William Bow, director of development at Pfizer, as the phenomenon has been found in patients who did get the drug and those who didn’t.
The FDA also said it’s unclear if rebounds are related to baxlovid.
Should I take a second course of Baxlovid after rebounding?
Not according to the FDA. She said last week that there was no evidence of benefit from taking a second 5-day course of pills or a 10-day course.
Pfizer has suggested otherwise. CEO Albert Borla said patients and doctors told Pfizer that a second five-day course of Baxilovid had cleared the virus. Mikael Dolstein, the company’s chief scientific officer, recently said that some immunocompromised patients “may carry this virus for a very, very long time,” and may need to take multiple courses or for an extended period.
The FDA stressed that rebounds do not alter the ability of baxlovid to reduce hospitalization and death.
Who is Eligible for Paxlovid?
Eligibility for baxiloid varies by country. In the United States, Paxlovid is approved for use in patients at high risk of progressing to severe COVID-19 whether or not they have been vaccinated.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these groups include anyone age 65 or older and people with risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, or use of immunosuppressive medications. Burla estimated that half of American adults qualify.
Does Baxolvid work against long-term Covid disease?
Baxlovid is not authorized to treat the chronic and debilitating condition known as COVID-19. However, there have been recent case studies of patients with prolonged COVID who experienced symptom relief after taking Paxlovid.