Health Canada approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral drug

Paxlovid. Image credit: Pfizer

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Ottawa/cmedia: Approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 therapeutic antiviral Paxlovid as a potentially life-saving drug by Health Canada has enabled its distribution at a time when the country’s hospitals are overwhelmed.

“The authorization today provides a new tool the toolkit against COVID-19 at a crucial time the pandemic as we’re faced with new variants. Importantly, it is a more accessible antiviral treatment for those at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19,” said Health Canada’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma, during a technical briefing discussing Paxlovid’s authorization.

“No drug, including Paxlovid, is a substitute for vaccination,” she said.

The prescription-only medication and administered in pill form can be given to adults ages 18 and older, says Health Canada to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 if they have a confirmed positive test and are at a high risk of becoming seriously ill.

Easy to self-administer at home this is an effective pill that could relieve some of the pressure on the healthcare system, experts say.

The authorization comes with specific instructions on scenarios in which the regime cannot be used, including to prevent COVID-19 infections or to treat patients who are already hospitalized due to severe COVID-19 cases and designed to help the body fight off the SARS-CoV-2 virus, reduce symptoms from infection and shorten the period of illness.

Some doctors have hailed this product as a pandemic “game changer” because of its ability to reduce hospitalizations and deaths among COVID-19 patients.

After receiving the submission for PAXLOVIDTM from Pfizer on December 1, 2021, Health Canada conducted an expedited review and submitted the data to Health Canada on a rolling basis throughout the review process, as new information became available to facilitate a decision as quickly as possible.

While the benefits of Paxlovid were found to outweigh the risks, it can cause interactions with other medications for some patients. As such, patients should discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with their healthcare provider.