Australia has approved oral treatments for Covid: how do the pills work and who will benefit most?

The first oral treatments for Covid-19 have been approved by the drugs regulator in Australia.

Paxlovid and Lagevrio were approved. They can be administered by health professionals in limited circumstances, but the manufacturers must submit further data as the drugs are used more widely.

The director of infectious diseases at Mater Health Services said on Thursday that they have great safe and effective vaccines. We have got anti-virals and anti-malaria drugs that have helped us. There is an oral therapy that can change the course of the Covid illness.

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How do drugs work?

They both stop the virus from replicating in cells of the body in slightly different ways.

Errors are caused by lagevrio when the virus is no longer viable and doesn't survive that process. Paxlovid blocks a key component of the virus.

Either medicine should be given as soon as possible after a diagnosis and within five days of the start of symptoms. For five days, the medicines are taken twice a day. Both drugs were very effective in reducing death rates.

Who will benefit?

The treatments can only be given to adults with Covid-19 who do not yet need oxygen but who are at increased risk of death or hospitalisation. This is also the case for other treatments.

Until now, those treatments had to be delivered in a hospital or other medical setting. Some of these treatments have had supply shortages.

The oral therapies will be easier to use.

It is important that they are easier to get to people earlier. How quickly we give them can affect how well they work.

The oral treatments are not an alternative to vaccinations. Treatments only work for a short period of time, whereas vaccines last a long time. James Ross/AAP

This reduces the burden on the healthcare system as these oral therapies can be very much community focused, rather than requiring a hospital bed and resources to administer.

It will benefit people in aged care, who won't have to go to the hospital for treatment.

There is resistance to the virus.

A research fellow in clinical pharmacology at Flinders University said that most existing Covid-19 treatments and vaccines targeted the virus.

He said that Paxlovid is an important new treatment for Covid patients as it targets a unique process in Covid replication that is not related to the spikeProtein. Paxlovid is less likely to lose efficacy due to the spike protein being associated with Delta and Omicron.

When will they be used?

The Australian government has secured half a million treatment courses of Paxlovid and 300,000 courses of Lagevrio for supply during the year 2022, with the first deliveries due in the coming weeks.

Are they a vaccine alternative?

Covid treatments are not an alternative to vaccinations. Treatments for the most at-risk cases are reserved and there may be shortages throughout the Pandemic. Treatments only work for a short period of time, whereas vaccines last a long time.

TheVaccines work well at stopping people from progressing to severe disease but also preventing people from getting the infection and passing it on. Drug therapies will not do all those things. They are an added tool that will make a huge difference to the most vulnerable.

The drugs were expensive.

He said that a disproportionate number of patients are being treated for Covid with monoclonal antibodies in the community, being admitted to hospital, and requiring ICU beds to be unvaccinated.

The cost of Paxlovid to these Australians will place a further burden on an already over stretched healthcare system. For the cost of treating one person with Paxlovid, we can afford to vaccine 32 children.