Long Covid: Paxlovid reduces risk of long Covid, Veterans Affairs study finds


Paxlovid, the antiviral pill that reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19, also reduces the risk of long Covid, according to a new study by researchers from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

The study, published online as a preprint on Saturday, analyzed the electronic records of more than 56,000 veterans with Covid-19, including more than 9,000 who were treated with Paxlovid within the first five days of their infection. .

The analysis showed that people treated with Paxlovid had a 26% reduced risk of developing several long-lasting Covid conditions, including heart disease, blood disorders, fatigue, liver disease, kidney disease, muscle pain , neurocognitive disorders and shortness of breath. This corresponded to 2.3 fewer cases of long Covid illnesses per 100 people three months after their diagnosis. Paxlovid also reduced the risk of hospitalization or death from acute Covid-19.

In the analysis, there was no statistically significant link between taking Paxlovid and the risk of two long-lasting Covid conditions: cough and new diagnosis of diabetes.

The study was posted on the medRxiv preprint server and has not been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal.

The patients included in the study had an average age of 65 and were diagnosed positive for Covid-19 between March 1 and June 30, 2022. They all had at least one risk factor for progression to Covid-19 severe, such as advanced age, diabetes, or being a current smoker. Paxlovid reduced the risk of long Covid in unvaccinated, vaccinated and boosted people, and in people experiencing their first Covid-19 infection or reinfection, according to the study.

“Paxlovid reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 in the acute phase, and now we have evidence that it can help reduce the risk of long COVID,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, Chief Research Officer and of development at the VA St. Louis Health Care System and lead on the study, said in a press release. « This treatment could be an important asset in solving the serious problem of long COVID. »

The study has several limitations, including the fact that the majority of those included were white and male, which may limit its relevance more generally. The analysis captured Paxlovid use only through the VA system and only considered 12 long Covid conditions, although many people with long Covid describe a wide variety of symptoms.

Millions of people who have had Covid-19 face a range of long-lasting symptoms from their initial illness, but there is no specific treatment for long Covid. Paxlovid is an antiviral treatment for Covid-19 that combines a new antiviral, nirmatrelvir, with an older drug, ritonavir. It is available for people from the age of 12 and has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in people at risk of severe Covid-19.

The drug is made by Pfizer and comes in pills taken over five days. It works best if started within five days of the onset of symptoms; the researchers noted that it is unclear whether a longer duration or higher dose or both might further reduce the risk of prolonged Covid conditions, or whether starting Paxlovid after an acute Covid- 19 would reduce the risk of long Covid. The National Institutes of Health announced last month that it would launch a study of Paxlovid as a treatment for patients who have already been suffering from Covid for a long time.

« The totality of evidence suggests the need for improved absorption and use of nirmatrelvir in the acute phase as a means not only to prevent progression to severe acute illness, but also to reduce the risk of post-treatment adverse effects. acute on health, » study authors of the VA study wrote.

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