Paxlovid is an antiviral drug developed by Pfizer, and it consists of an anti-viral component known as Nirmatrelvir, which inhibits SARS-CoV-2 protein to stop the virus from replicating, thereby helping in preventing severe infection and severe disease. The advantage of Paxlovid is that it can be administered outside hospital settings and trial data by the company shows a 90% efficacy. This antiviral drug is said to prevent hospitalization and deaths and thus could prove to be a major breakthrough in our fight against the pandemic.
Then the other antiviral drug, which has been approved for treating COVID-19, is Molnupiravir developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. This medication works by introducing a few errors into the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2, which in turn helps in preventing virus replication. But since this drug directly meddles with the genetic code of the virus, its usage and administration are strictly restricted in order to prevent any misuse or wrong administration of the drug. But however, initial data shows that both the drugs do have the potential to reduce the severity of the disease, thereby helping in preventing hospitalization and deaths.
But of course, these antiviral drugs also come with side effects, which not only includes regular side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, etc., but the usage of Paxlovid in people with uncontrolled or undiagnosed HIV may lead to the development of HIV drug resistance. Also, the components of the drug can cause liver damage, especially to those patients with pre-existing liver diseases, and hence it is not recommended for those suffering from liver diseases and kidney diseases. Even Molnupiravir has thrown up a few side effects, but an analysis of the cost to benefit ratio shows that if these antiviral drugs are used wisely, they can definitely aid our fight against the pandemic despite the few risks that come with their usage.
But however, there are few concerns about possible medical apartheid and the rising inequality between developed countries and developing and poor nations, as these antiviral drugs and their components have been patented in the developed Western countries, thereby limiting their access and availability. We’ve already seen such a divide emerge between developed and developing and poor nations with regard to the availability of vaccines, so similar inequality can be expected with regard to these antiviral drugs, as well as a result of the abuse of patents and intellectual property rights by the developed nations and by their companies.
So we can recognize that these two antiviral drugs mark a significant advance in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. But however, concerns such as their side effects and inequality with regard to access will have to be sorted in order to make them an effective weapon against COVID-19.