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COVID-19 Therapies

Three new COVID-19 therapies recently received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Two of the new therapies are antiviral pills that could help people once they have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The third is a monoclonal antibody therapy designed to prevent illness in people who are immunocompromised, such as cancer or organ transplant patients. Hennepin Healthcare is working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health and other health systems throughout the state to plan for equitable distribution of these new therapies to patients who are at high risk of serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19.

While the COVID-19 vaccine with boosters is still the best protection against the virus, new prevention and treatment options are especially helpful for people with certain pre-existing conditions. Read on to learn more about how the new therapies work, who qualifies, and how to access them at Hennepin Healthcare as supplies become available.

Evusheld

What is it?

The FDA issued an emergency use authorization on Dec. 8 for Evusheld, a new monoclonal antibody treatment from AstraZeneca. Evusheld is a preventive therapy designed to protect people with compromised immune systems before exposure to COVID-19. These people receive less protection from the vaccine and are at higher risk of hospitalization and death if they get COVID-19. Evusheld may provide up to six months of protection against COVID-19. In clinical trials, it has been shown to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 by nearly 80 percent.

Evusheld is NOT a COVID-19 treatment. It can’t be given to people who have the virus or were recently exposed to COVID-19.

How do I get it?

There is currently a very limited supply of Evusheld. If you meet criteria and get care at Hennepin Healthcare for your high-risk condition, your Care Team will reach out to you to get the infusion. Since supply is limited, this may take days to weeks.

Molnupiravir

What is it?

In addition to Evusheld, the FDA recently issued emergency use authorization for two new COVID-19 treatments – molnupiravir and paxlovid. Molnupiravir is an oral pill from Merck. It dramatically changes the virus’s genetic code, causing it to mutate so much that it can’t replicate.

Recent studies show that molnupiravir can reduce the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 by 30 percent. Patients take four pills every 12 hours for five days. They must start the treatment within five days of showing symptoms.

Molnupiravir is approved to treat mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 in adults who are at high risk for severe illness but have not yet been hospitalized. It’s only approved in cases where alternative COVID-19 treatments approved by the FDA aren’t appropriate.

Molnupiravir is only approved for adults 18 and older. It’s not recommended for people who are pregnant.

How do I get it?

Molnupiravir received emergency use authorization on Dec. 23, and there is currently a limited quantity. Hennepin Healthcare is working with the Minnesota Department of Health and health systems throughout the state to plan for distribution as supplies become available. If you get care for your COVID symptoms at Hennepin Healthcare and meet criteria for treatment, this medication could be available.

Paxlovid

What is it?

Paxlovid is an antiviral pill from Pfizer. It was approved for emergency use on Dec. 22 to help treat COVID-19 in people at high risk of severe illness from the virus. It has been approved to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 cases and is meant for use before hospitalization.

Clinical trials show paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 by nearly 90 percent. Like molnupiravir, paxlovid treatment must be started within five days of showing symptoms.

Paxlovid is a protease inhibitor. It stops the COVID-19 virus from replicating inside a person’s body by blocking protease, an enzyme that the virus needs to multiply. Protease inhibitors have long been used to treat other viruses, including HIV and hepatitis C. It does interact with other drugs you might be taking so your provider will need to weigh the benefits vs harm due to drug interactions.

Paxlovid is currently approved for people 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds.

How do I get it?

As with molnupiravir, there is currently a very limited supply of paxlovid nationwide. We are collaborating closely with the Minnesota Department of Health and other health systems to create an equitable and convenient distribution plan for people throughout the state. If you get care for your COVID symptoms at Hennepin Healthcare and meet criteria for treatment, this medication could be available.

As supply of these drugs improves and more allocation is available, we will update this website. In the meantime, please continue to get vaccinated or get booster shots if eligible, wear a high-quality mask and practice all necessary COVID-19 precautions.

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