The good news: COVID-19 treatments are now available for outpatient use and are safe and effective in battling COVID-19. The other news: You may feel like you need a medical degree to understand the different treatment options available, but don’t worry, we’ve got you.
In this post we’ll answer the following questions:
- What COVID-19 specific treatments are available?
- How do they work?
- Who qualifies for them?
- What if I’m pregnant?
- Do they work against the Omicron variant?
- How do I get them?
What COVID-19 specific treatments are available?
Treatment options have greatly expanded from the early days of the pandemic. Today, there are 2 new COVID-19 pills used to treat patients who have mild to moderate illness (those with symptoms not severe enough to require hospitalization). These pills, Pfizer’s “Paxlovid” and Merck’s “Molnupiravir” are designed to be taken from the comfort and safety of your own home and don’t require you to go to a hospital or infusion center like some of the other treatment options. Both pills are taken over a 5 day course and they tend to be very well tolerated with very few side-effects.
Here’s some great news (more on this below): All PhysicianOne Urgent Care providers are able to prescribe Paxlovid for qualifying patients. Our Connecticut locations are designated Test to Treat centers where qualifying patients are able to leave with treatment in hand.
Other therapies which are available for treating COVID-19 include an infusion of monoclonal antibodies which are administered through an IV, as well as another antiviral which is also administered as an infusion.
How do these COVID-19 treatments work?
These therapies can be categorized generally into two types: Antibody therapy and Antiviral medication.
- Antibody therapy: You may already have heard about monoclonal antibodies which have been used since 2020 to effectively treat COVID. These are laboratory produced molecules which mimic what the body’s immune system would create when introduced to a virus. These molecules act in a few ways to protect the body from the damage that the COVID-19 virus creates including: neutralizing the virus, blocking the virus from entering human cells, and preventing replication of the virus. Some of the monoclonal antibodies we used in the earlier days of the pandemic included casirivimab, imdevimab, bamlanivimab and etesevimab. As new variants of the virus have emerged, most of those have become ineffective. For the Omicron variant, the only effective monoclonal antibody is Sotrovimab.
- Antiviral medication: Viruses like COVID-19 cannot reproduce on their own. To survive they insert themselves into the body’s cells, use the cell’s machinery to make copies of themselves and then burst out of the cell to create more havoc on more cells in the body. The COVID antivirals (Molnupiravir, Paxlovid and Remdesivir) all work to prevent replication in the body, though each does so in a different way.
Who qualifies for COVID-19 treatment?
To qualify for treatment of mild to moderate disease, a person must test positive for COVID, have at least one risk factor for worsening disease, and have had symptoms (for less than 10 days for monoclonal antibodies, no more than 7 days for remdesivir and no more than 5 days for the antiviral pills). The monoclonal antibodies and one of the oral pills are available for patients 12 years of age and older, while the other oral pill is for patients 18 years of age and older.
What if I’m pregnant?
Pregnancy is an independent risk factor for complications of COVID and therefore pregnant women who test positive for COVID should immediately discuss their options for treatment. Unfortunately, Merck’s Molnupiravir is not recommended in pregnant women due to its risk of birth defects. Pfizer’s Paxlovid may be prescribed to pregnant women in certain cases. Monoclonal antibodies are the best option for COVID positive pregnant women and is recommended if given within 10 days of symptom onset and it is available.
Do they work against the Delta and Omicron variants?
Because the antiviral drugs work by preventing replication of the virus, infectious disease experts believe the pills continue to be effective against both Delta and Omicron. Most of the monoclonal antibodies, which target the spike protein of the coronavirus, were effective against Delta. However, with Omicron, since the spike protein contained many mutations, most of the monoclonal antibodies lost effectiveness against the virus. However, one of them, Sotrovimab has remained very effective against the Omicron virus.
How can I get COVID-19 treatment?
PhysicianOne Urgent Care centers in Connecticut carry a stock of Paxlovid. PhysicianOne providers in Massachusetts and New York are able to quickly call in a prescription for patients who qualify. If you think you might qualify please visit one of our centers to speak with our knowledgeable providers who will help to determine if you should receive one of these therapies. All of the therapies require a prescription or a physician’s order since each has unique qualities which might make one better than another. Your provider will discuss your specific case during your visit and review all risk factors before determining which treatment is right for you. If you or a loved one recently tested positive for COVID-19 and you think you might qualify for treatment, please contact us. Time is of the essence for all of the available therapies, so don’t wait.
Check-in online to be seen in-person or book a virtual visit to see one of our providers from the comfort of your home.