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Omicron COVID Strain
The new COVID variant was initially detected in South Africa and Botswana and sparked major concerns due to its high number of mutations (32). The WHO dubbed the strain Omicron and warned it may prove to be more transmissible and dangerous than other coronavirus variants.

US Authorizes Paxlovid, the First Oral Antiviral Treatment for COVID-19

© REUTERS / Andrew Kelly Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020
 Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.12.2021
On Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared Pfizer’s Paxlovid for use in patients 12 and older. The first-of-its-kind Covid treatment pill has been shown to be highly effective at preventing serious Covid symptoms in infected individuals.
The emergency use authorization of Paxlovid comes as the United States faces a Covid surge due to the emergence of the highly-contagious Omicron variant. The pill will be available to those who are at an increased risk to become severely ill.
One study found that when taken within five days of the first symptoms by high-risk unvaccinated adults, Paxlovid managed to reduce hospitalization or death by 88%. The study was conducted when the Delta variant was surging, but laboratory studies indicate it is likely to work against the Omicron variant as well.
According to an FDA news release, “Paxlovid is available by prescription only and should be initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of symptom onset.”
Paxlovid is to be administered twice daily over five consecutive days. Each dosage is three tablets consisting of two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir. A 30-pill round of Paxlovid is set to cost approximately $530 per patient.
Paxlovid’s promise has seen the United States order enough doses to treat 10 million people; however, it's roll-out could take some time as Pfizer can only make enough pills to cover 65,000 people in the US by the end of next week.
Over the first two months, Pfizer will make 350,000 treatment courses available before production is expected to be ramped up. Pfizer is expected to produce 120 million courses of Paxlovid in 2022.
While Paxlovid appears promising in the global fight against Covid, another antiviral pill is poised to soon hit the market. Merck has developed a pill that in a study reduced the risk of hospitalization and death for high-risk patients by an estimated 30%. It is expected that Merck will gain FDA emergency authorization over the next week.
Merck’s pill has more health concerns, and experts expect that Paxlovid will be the preferred course of treatment. Merck, however, is thought to be able to ramp up production more quickly.
Before these two pharmaceutical treatments, the only authorized treatment available to individuals were monoclonal antibody drugs. These drugs had to be infused into the bloodstream at a hospital or clinic, which limited their utility.
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