COVID Medications and Treatments: What Are Your Options?

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Amid news Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and President Joe Biden were both given an anti-viral treatment for COVID after testing positive, many may be wondering what options they have to treat the virus if they contract it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with COVID contact their doctor, stating that "medications to treat COVID-19 must be prescribed by a health care provider and started as soon as possible after diagnosis to be effective."

"The FDA has authorized certain antiviral medications and monoclonal antibodies to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in people who are more likely to get very sick," the CDC stated.

Antiviral treatments help prevent severe illness and death by stopping the virus from multiplying in the body, while monoclonal antibodies help the immune system respond more effectively.

Paxlovid, an antiviral drug manufactured by Pfizer, is designed to be taken by patients who are at high risk of developing severe cases of COVID.

The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the treatment recommends it for use by individuals with preexisting conditions that could cause them to become seriously ill with the virus, including diabetes, immune system disorders, cancer, obesity and more.

Paxlovid was authorized in the U.S. late last year.

In older people and other high-risk patients, the drug was shown to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. The pills work best if taken within five days of the start of symptoms.

Research suggests that a minority of those prescribed Paxlovid do experience a rebound case of the virus.

That's what health experts say happened to Biden.

Both the Food and Drug Administration and Pfizer point out that 1% to 2% of people in Pfizer’s original study on Paxlovid saw their virus levels rebound after 10 days. The rate was about the same among people taking the drug or dummy pills, “so it is unclear at this point that this is related to drug treatment,” according to the FDA.

According to the CDC, those with rebound COVID should isolate for at least five days, ending that if a fever has resolved itself for 24 hours without medication and symptoms have improved. The patient “should wear a mask for a total of 10 days after rebound symptoms started. Some people continue to test positive after day 10 but are considerably less likely to shed infectious virus.”

The CDC warns, however, that some treatments may have side effects and people should speak with their doctor before taking anything.

For those with mild symptoms at home, health officials have touted some over-the-counter medications.

Chicago's top doctor addressed questions surrounding over-the-counter treatment for mild COVID symptoms Tuesday.

"Over-the-counter stuff really can be quite good," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "So don't be afraid of taking some over-the-counter cough drops or cold and flu medication, or especially Tylenol or ibuprofen - assuming that you don't have some other condition where you shouldn't take those."

The CDC recommended acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to help some feel better.

Even if symptoms are mild and don't require hospitalization, Arwady urged anyone experiencing them to contact their doctor.

"If you are having COVID, like I want you in touch with your doctor's office, mostly to make sure that you or anybody doesn't need Paxlovid right?" Arwady said.

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