For many people, COVID-19 has become less of an urgent threat and more like other infectious diseases such as the flu or the common cold. That’s not only due to vaccines: antiviral drugs like Paxlovid minimize symptoms for people who do get infected. The drug, developed by Pfizer, can reduce hospitalization rates by 90%. The company’s scientists combined two medications, one of which was originally developed against HIV, to hamper SARS-CoV-2’s ability to replicate in cells. But timing of the medication is important, since it’s most effective if people start the five-day course of treatment as soon after getting infected as possible. Not starting the therapy early enough can lead to incomplete suppression of the virus, which might explain why some people who have taken the drug can test positive for the virus again.—Alice Park
The original version of this story misstated how Paxlovid was created. It combines an existing medicine with a new one that was developed from a research compound; it does not combine two existing medications.
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