GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new study conducted by researchers at the Veterans Health Administration may have found a new perk to Paxlovid. The anti-viral course of pills has already shown it can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death for COVID-19 patients. Now, data shows it can also reduce a patient’s chances of developing long-term COVID complications.
The VA posted its study over the weekend. It has yet to undergo a peer review, but at least one infectious disease specialist believes the data tracks with how the drug works.
“We know that one of the key factors that predict long COVID is detectable virus in the bloodstream at the time of infection,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, from the University of California San Francisco, told NPR. “So, it stands to reason that interventions that prevent the virus from making more copies of itself would therefore lead to a lower risk of long COVID.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, an estimated 1 in 13 adults in the U.S. will develop “post-acute sequelae SARS-CoV-2 infection” — otherwise known as PASC or “long COVID.” That’s defined as people dealing with new complications brought on by the virus at least three months after the onset of infection.
VA researchers analyzed records from more than 56,000 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 between March and June 2022 and had at least one underlying medical condition that put them at higher risk for more complications. Of the 56,000 patients, a little over 9,000 took the anti-viral regimen, while the remaining 47,000 did not.
The analysis found that patients who were treated with Paxlovid were 26% less likely to develop PASC, 30% less likely to be hospitalized by the infection and 48% less likely to die from the infection.
The study found that regardless of age, gender, race, vaccination status or underlying medical condition, Paxlovid lowered the risk for PASC.
“These analyses suggest that those who are at most risk will likely derive the most benefit,” the study said. “Whether the salutary benefit of (Paxlovid) extends to people without risk factors for progression to severe disease … remains to be tested in future randomized trials.”