Scientists develop new COVID pill better than Paxlovid

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In a study from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, scientists developed a new medication that COVID patients can take to prevent severe disease.

The treatment is called VV116 and it works as well as Paxlovid in people who are at high risk of severe disease.

VV116 is similar to the antiviral infusion remdesivir but in pill form. It still needs to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Researchers say it may first need more study in a larger, diverse group of patients to look for rare side effects and see how it fares against Omicron variants that have emerged since the trial was conducted.

In the phase 3 study, the team tested more than 380 people who took the medication for about five days. A group of similar size took Paxlovid instead.

The researchers found fewer patients reported side effects, with about 67% of people who took it reporting side effects, compared to 77% of those who took Paxlovid.

They also found fewer reactions compared with other medications such as those that treat insomnia, seizures or high blood pressure.

The team found fewer patients in the trial had elevated levels of triglycerides (fat in the blood that increases the risk of heart disease or stroke) at 11% compared to 21% with Paxlovid.

The VV116 patients recovered (defined as no symptoms for two consecutive days) four days after starting the treatment. For Paxlovid patients, recovery happened in five days.

The team also found about 98% of patients had recovered within four weeks and none developed severe COVID-19.

Though Paxlovid patients sometimes have a rebound of symptoms in the days or weeks after treatment, that doesn’t happen with the infusion remdesivir, which this new pill is similar to.

Previous research has found that Paxlovid can cause liver damage, mostly in patients who already have liver problems. It also can interact with statins and heart disease drugs.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about hand size linked to risk of severe COVID-19, and diabetes drug metformin linked to less severe COVID-19.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about new drug to treat both COVID-19 and cancer, and results showing scientists find new symptoms of long COVID.

The study was conducted by Ren Zhao et al and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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