Paxlovid now widely available in Finger Lakes Region

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — As COVID cases continue to rise, the federal government is expanding the accessibility of an anti-viral drug that doctors say dramatically reduces the risk of hospitalization and death. Paxlovid was approved for use in the U.S. at the end of 2021 but until recently, it has not been widely available.

Just a few weeks ago, only three pharmacies across the region had the drug but supply has steadily increased since then. If you test positive for COVID-19 you should be able to call your doctor and get a prescription for it.

Elizabeth Boyd of Rochester is fully vaccinated and boosted but earlier this month, she started feeling sick and tested positive for COVID-19.

“When I saw that other second line I was like floored, so I just sat there for a few minutes before I even went downstairs and told my fiancé,” she recalled.

Boyd remembered hearing something about a drug called Paxlovid on TV and since she has some pre-existing respiratory issues she called her doctor.

“It shouldn’t have been an issue to give it to me because really when they advertise it, it says it’s for people who do have complications so I thought it would have no problem, you know?” Boyd said

But that was when supply was limited so it took some work for her to secure it. Thankfully, she was able to get the anti-viral and she says she feels like it helped dramatically.

“There was a study that came out that showed that using this drug within the first 5 days of illness could prevent hospitalization and death by up to almost 90%,” explained Dr. David Dobrzynski, an infectious disease specialist at UR Medicine, “We’re already at capacity kind of as we speak with COVID and non-COVID illness so being able to prevent future waves because we know, unfortunately, we’re going to dealing with this for the next several months to years still.”

The drug is recommended for those with pre-existing conditions.

“We know that unfortunately, COVID can create serious disease in a whole host of patients now so this can range from obesity, diabetes, all the way up to your transplant and cancer patients as well so are targeting those high-risk patients first and foremost,” explained Dr. Dobrzynski.

When it comes to side effects, “this drug is generally pretty well tolerated,” said Dr. Dobrzynski, “We’ve had the usual kind of side effects, some GI upset, muscle cramping a little bit. The one big thing that we warn people is that one of the components has a lot of drug interactions.”

That’s why it’s important to consult your doctor before taking it.

Boyd didn’t have any issues while taking it, she just thinks more people need to know about it.

“Had I not asked for it, I wouldn’t have gotten it,” Boyd said.