We’re approaching year three of the COVID-19 pandemic. While much of the urgency has faded away, the virus is still a clear and present danger. Every year since the pandemic began, the United States has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the winter months. According to CDC data, the 2022-2023 winter season is already beginning to follow that trend.
But unlike in winters past, we have better tools to use against COVID-19 than ever before. People who have received the updated bivalent boosters are now calculated to be three times less likely to contract COVID-19 and fifteen times less likely to die of COVID-19 infection. That’s a massive protective effect.
Those who do contract COVID-19 have more options, too. Paxlovid and Veklury are the preferred treatments for eligible patients, and Paxlovid – an oral medication rather than intravenous – is available for outpatient use. A December 8 CNN article that mentions ScriptDrop, “Home delivery of medications can help improve access, especially when time is tight,” noted that there’s plenty of Paxlovid to go around. The problem is getting it to the people who need it in a timely manner.
A good way to do that: home delivery. Read on to learn more about Paxlovid and how organizations like ScriptDrop and our partners like Rite Aid are bringing it directly to patients’ homes.
What is Paxlovid?
Paxlovid, produced by Pfizer, is one of several available treatments for mild-to-moderate COVID-19 that have been granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA. It is a combination antiviral therapy; patients receive packets of nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets to take in the morning and evening every day for five days.
Paxlovid isn’t meant to treat severe COVID-19, but it also isn’t meant to magically make the symptoms of COVID-19 disappear. It’s meant to keep patients with mild-to-moderate disease from getting sicker, going to the hospital, or dying.
Paxlovid is most effective if taken within five days of symptom onset. For that reason, some doctors will prescribe it to asymptomatic patients who have tested positive and tell them to fill the prescription if they begin to feel ill. But at that point, patients really shouldn’t leave quarantine to go to the pharmacy. Besides, with decreased testing requirements, most COVID-19 patients don’t know they’re positive until they begin having symptoms and test themselves. By that time, patients may only have a day or two to have their infection confirmed by a doctor, get a prescription, and start therapy.
How do I know if I’m eligible for Paxlovid treatment?
In August, the FDA released a Paxlovid eligibility checklist to help prescribers decide who needs treatment. Generally, a patient who meets the following criteria is eligible:
- Has a confirmed positive COVID-19 test
- Is 12 years of age or older
- Has one or more risk factors for severe COVID-19 (is an older adult, immunocompromised, or chronically ill), but currently does not require hospitalization for severe/critical infection
- Will be able to start therapy within 5 days of symptom onset
- Does not have known renal impairment, hepatic impairment, or hypersensitivity reactions
- Is not taking or is able to temporarily stop taking or adjust the dosage of medications that may interact with Paxlovid
But the best way to know is to ask your doctor. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and know you may be at risk for severe illness, call your healthcare provider right away. You can also look for a Test-to-Treat center through the HHS website.
If I’m prescribed Paxlovid, how do I take it? For how long?
You will receive morning and evening dose packs that contain all the tablets you need. Depending on the dosage, you will take either two or three tablets, twice a day, at the same times each day. If you’re not used to taking medications at specific times of day, set reminder alarms or connect the act of taking medication with some other daily activity. For example, take the morning dose while having your morning coffee and the evening dose before brushing your teeth.
The course of therapy is only five days, but it’s important to take your doses consistently. If you realize you’ve missed a dose but it’s been less than eight hours since you would usually take it, take it right away. If it’s been more than eight hours, skip that dose. Do not take two doses at once!
Are there side effects?
Most medications have side effects, and Paxlovid is no different. Mild effects may include an altered sense of taste, diarrhea, muscle aches, nausea, abdominal pain, and high blood pressure.
Again, as with many medications, there is some risk of severe side effects like anaphylaxis or liver problems. If you experience sudden and severe symptoms while taking Paxlovid, talk to a doctor right away.
My doctor prescribed me Paxlovid, but I don’t want to go to the pharmacy and expose others to COVID-19. Can I get it delivered to my home?
In many cases, yes! It depends on whether your pharmacy has a home delivery solution that can get Paxlovid to you quickly enough. During the first year of the pandemic, many pharmacies implemented delivery. But while some have their own delivery drivers or have teamed up with ScriptDrop, some still rely entirely on mail delivery, which can take weeks to reach the patient’s home.
Luckily, same-day and on-demand delivery is catching on as retailers discover how many patients need it.
- Rite Aid has partnered with ScriptDrop to provide home delivery for Paxlovid and many other prescription medications. This service is currently free.
- Many grocery chains with their own pharmacies (Kroger, Giant Eagle, Albertsons, etc.) offer same-day or on-demand prescription delivery.
- Many local community pharmacies also offer delivery.
- Some digital pharmacies, like Alto Pharmacy, offer same-day delivery but have limited service areas.
In short, start by asking your pharmacy if they can accommodate you. If not, have your prescription transferred to another pharmacy as soon as possible, or request ScriptDrop delivery yourself!
I also need refills of my maintenance medications. Can I get those delivered along with my Paxlovid?
Again, in many cases you can. It depends on your pharmacy’s rules about delivery. Some may have a delivery program for Paxlovid, but not for other medications. Some will deliver refrigerated medications and controlled substances, but many will not. A great way to learn about your options is the “Major Players in Prescription Access” chart in our 2022 industry report. Look through the B2C businesses for a pharmacy that meets your needs.