Antivirals - changing the way we treat COVID-19
As the fight against COVID-19 continues, public health clinicians in the Barwon South West have a new treatment for COVID patients to prevent serious illness and hospitalisation.
Infectious Disease registrar Dr Arvind Yerramilli from the Barwon South West Public Health Unit (BSWPHU) is one of the team providing new oral antiviral treatment to eligible patients with COVID-19.
Paxlovid® and Lagevrio® are oral antiviral agents meaning that they can be taken in tablet or capsule form.
Both of these medications have recently been provisionally approved for the treatment of COVID-19 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) of Australia and are already being used in other countries around the world including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Japan.
Lagevrio® has an active ingredient that works by preventing the virus from multiplying within the body. In contrast, Paxlovid® has two ingredients. Like Lagevrio, the first part works by preventing the virus multiplying, while the second part helps to increase the blood concentration of the first part allowing it to work for longer.
Dr Yerramilli believes antivirals are a game-changer when it comes to keeping COVID positive patients out of hospital,
“While vaccination and particularly booster doses are still the best way to prevent severe COVID-19, oral antiviral treatments can be used as another tool to help particularly vulnerable adults.”
“Both Paxlovid® and Lagevrio® were shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death in two internationally recognised clinical studies,” he says.
Barwon Health CEO Frances Diver believes keeping COVID-19 patients out of hospital where possible, is vital to ensuring the health system can continue to support the community for non-COVID related illness,
“We are all adapting to living with COVID. It is now part of our ‘business as usual”, she says.
Paxlovid® is currently accessed through hospital pharmacies who receive stock via the National Medical Stockpile – referrals can be made through your local doctor. The dose is three tablets twice a day for 5 days or two tablets twice a day for 5 days in those with moderate kidney disease.
Lagevrio® is now available in most community pharmacies and can be obtained with a valid prescription from your doctor. The dose is four capsules twice a day for 5 days.
Both Paxlovid® and Lagevrio® are currently available for COVID-19 positive people at risk of severe disease but who are early in their illness and well enough to be treated in the community to prevent them from needing hospitalisation.
This includes patients who are:
• 18 years of age or older
• Not pregnant
• Have at least one sign or symptom attributable to COVID-19
• Are within 5 days of symptom onset
There are a number of criteria which may constitute high risk for severe COVID-19 – speak to your doctor to find out whether you qualify.