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Researchers debate effectiveness of Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral drug

A recent real-world study reveals that Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid is slightly effective at preventing hospitalization or death in high-risk patients who are at high risk of progressing to severe COVID-19.

Despite the slightly reduced effectiveness, researchers recommend the continued use of Paxlovid and Lagevrio, as they still significantly reduce hospitalization and death among high-risk COVID-19 patients, even in the face of recent Omicron subvariants.

Findings from the study

In high-risk patients, Paxlovid showed approximately 37% effectiveness in preventing death or hospitalization compared to no treatment.

The study also examined the antiviral Lagevrio, manufactured by Merck, which demonstrated about 41% effectiveness in similar circumstances.

When focusing solely on preventing death, Paxlovid was around 84% effective compared to no treatment, while Lagevrio was approximately 77% effective.

These findings were based on an analysis of electronic health records from 68,867 COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

It’s worth noting that the effectiveness of Paxlovid against death and hospitalization in real-world scenarios appears lower than the approximately 86% effectiveness found in clinical trials conducted in 2021.

This difference may be due to several factors, including the fact that early clinical trials involved unvaccinated individuals, and the virus has evolved since then.

The study says,

  • “These findings suggest that the use of either nirmatrelvir (Paxlovid) or molnupiravir (Lagevrio) is associated with reductions in mortality and hospitalization in patients infected with Omicron, regardless of age, race and ethnicity, virus strain, vaccination status, previous infection status, or coexisting conditions.”
  • “Both drugs can, therefore, be used to treat non-hospitalized patients who are at high risk of progressing to severe COVID-19.”


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