Medication
File Photo | Photo: Julie Viken (via Pexels)

The state health department announced that two new COVID-19 oral antivirals, which have been shown to reduce hospitalizations, will be arriving in Illinois later this month.

Paxlovid, made by Pfizer, and Molnupiravir, made by Merck, were both given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December.

The antivirals are for those with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for becoming severely ill, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

Both antivirals will be available by prescription only and should be taken as soon as possible after being diagnosed with COVID and within five days of the onset of symptoms.

Paxlovid is expected to reduce the risk of hospitalizations by 89% and Molnupiravir by about 30%.

“These new oral antivirals add new tools to our toolbox to keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

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“While vaccination, including boosters, is still the best way to avoid infection and prevent severe illness from COVID-19, these new antivirals given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration can help treat those who get infected and have a higher risk of becoming severely ill,” Ezike said.

Molnupiravir is not authorized for use in patients who are pregnant or younger than 18 years of age because it may affect bone and cartilage growth.

Molnupiravir is intended to be used when other FDA-authorized treatments for COVID-19 are not accessible or are not clinically appropriate, IDPH said.

In addition to the oral antivirals, people can still receive monoclonal antibody treatment (mAb) to help prevent COVID-19 from progressing to a point where a person needs to be hospitalized, IDPH said.

Unlike the new oral antivirals, mAb is administered intravenously or through several shots. Both require a prescription.

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IDPH is currently working with pharmacies around the state to offer the new antivirals.

“While these antivirals are free from the federal government, they are in limited supply. Illinois will receive a renewed allocation of antivirals every two weeks,” the health department said on Thursday.

Walgreens and Walmart stores are federal pharmacy partners and some of their stores will carry the antivirals along with other pharmacies.