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New treatments for COVID-19 now widely available, accessible in pharmacies

New treatments for COVID-19 patients are now widely available to help keep high risk patients out of the hospital.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The state of Florida is seeing a slight increase in COVD-19 cases, but this year is different because patients now have more ways to protect their selves from the virus. 

On top of vaccines, the infectious disease specialist at Baptist Health Jacksonville said new drugs make her hopeful. 

“It’s quite wonderful. It is," said Dr. Shalika Katugaha. "It’s a supplement to the vaccines. We now have treatments. More and more of this and hopefully we’ll see COVID-19 become more of a respiratory virus just like flu or any others where we do have anti-virals to decrease symptoms and keep people out of the hospital."

Dr. Katugaha, Infectious Disease Specialist at Baptist Health Jacksonville, and Dr. Chirag Patel, the Assistant Chief Medical Officer UF Health Jacksonville, say the most commonly recommended anti-viral is Paxlovid because it is accessible at most pharmacies.

A study found it to be 89% effective in reducing risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. Drugs like this are anti-virals.

“That’s the one right now that the NIH recommends as the front line treatment for somebody who is at high risk for progression from COVID," Patel said. 

How do anti-viral medications work?

“Viral replication is what exacerbates (and) causes a lot of these COVID symptoms," Katugaha explains. "So a lot of these are anti-viral therapies that go at different mechanisms to stop anti-viral replication.”

Patel says these can help those at risk of severe COVID-19 from also spreading it to more people.

“If we are decreasing the amount of virus you have in your body, that’s less virus than can potentially spread to others and cause them to get sick," Patel explains.

There is another anti-viral pill called Lagevrio available. 

Monaclonal antibody treatments and IV infusions of Remdesivir are also available to patients. Doctors say these are less accessible because the infusions have to be done in a hospital. 

Remdesivir takes place over several days. 

If you catch COVID-19, ask your doctor is you should take one of these medications. 

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