The COVID-19 pandemic is still a big problem among medical and public health experts working to contain the situation. It does not help that the virus has been incessantly mutating, making some of the available treatments ineffective against newer strains.

A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal examined if the Covid drug Paxlovid was still effective against the infection. The researchers conducted a population-based evaluation of the effectiveness of the drug in reducing hospital admissions and mortality from COVID-19.

Previous research already proved that Paxlovid was effective in preventing the progression to severe Covid before the omicron variant emerged. The scientists wanted to check if the treatment was just as effective against omicron and its more transmissible subvariants.

For the new study, the team conducted a population-based cohort in Ontario that involved all residents older than 17 years of age and had a positive SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test between April 4, 2022, and Aug. 31, 2022. The scientists compared data from patients treated with Paxlovid and patients not treated. They then measured the primary outcome of hospital admission due to Covid or all-cause death at 1-30 days and a secondary outcome of all-cause death.

The final cohort covered data from 177,545 patients; 95% of them (168,669) were not treated, while 5% of the patients (8,876) were treated with Paxlovid. The team found that the incidence of hospital admission or death was lower in the group treated with Paxlovid than those who were not.

As SARS-CoV-2 continues to circulate and evolve, doctors to rely on fewer treatment options for the newer variants. The only two effective antiviral treatment options available are Remdesivir and Paxlovid. The latter is a combination of two generic medications, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir.

“Nirmatrelvir–ritonavir was associated with significantly reduced odds of hospital admission and death from COVID-19, which supports use to treat patients with mild COVID-19 who are at risk for severe disease,” the researchers wrote.

The team discovered that for every 62 people treated with Paxlovid, one case of severe infection was prevented. They said their findings support previous studies on the effectiveness of the drug to prevent hospital admission and death.

“Our study, in conjunction with previous clinical trials and observational research, supports the effectiveness of nirmatrelvir–ritonavir at reducing hospital admission from COVID-19 and all-cause death,” lead author Dr. Kevin Schwartz, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, stated, as quoted by CTV News.

“If you test positive for COVID-19, are over 60 years of age, or if you have other risk factors for severe infection, such as chronic medical conditions, or are undervaccinated, contact your health care provider or pharmacy within five days of symptoms starting and ask about Paxlovid," he added.

COVID vaccination
A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, in Taboga Island, Panama on May 21, 2021 LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images