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Covid warning: Treatment against Omicron could interfere with other medications

Coronavirus: GP says 'Omicron is beating the booster'

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The coronavirus poses a greater threat to people with existing medical conditions.

People with heart conditions such as coronary artery disease and high blood pressure are more likely to get severely ill and be hospitalised.

Prescriptions to control these conditions are commonplace.

Regulators have noted that some of the medications may be disrupted by new oral coronavirus pills that aim to protect people from hospitalisation.

Paxlovid is a new oral treatment that combats COVID-19.

It functions by blocking enzymes that are key to the metabolism of the virus.

It has received approval by UK, EU and US healthcare authorities.

It is intended for individuals who have mild or moderate symptoms but are at great risk of developing a more severe infection and being hospitalised.

The Paxlovid treatment contain two active ingredients: an antiviral drug, nirmatrelvir, alongside a “boosting agent”, ritonavir.

Ritonavir improves the efficacy of the antiviral drug by blocking a liver enzyme that breaks down medications.

By blocking this process in the liver, the drug remains effective in the body for longer.

This has the side effect of changing how the liver processes other drugs, potentially amplifying their effects as they remain active for longer.

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The liver enzyme, CYP3A, is responsible for breaking down a lot of commonly prescribed medications.

Blood thinners, statins and other heart medications are targeted by the enzyme.

Heart conditions are a major comorbidity for the coronavirus and this may limit how often these antiviral pills can be used.

A doctor may advise the pausing of medications such as statins in order to prescribe Paxlovid, but this requires judgement on a case by case basis.

The antiviral pills are only intended for use over a five-day period until symptoms subside or more serious treatment becomes necessary.

The NIH, a US healthcare regulator, approved antiviral pills for Covid treatment before the UK and has guidance prepared for doctors to instruct them on best using them.

Ritonavir has been used as a boosting agent for previous drugs, such as HIV medications.

This means that doctors may already be experienced in what interactions to watch for or can access resources when uncertain.

The NIH warns that in addition to prescription medication, patients should disclose to their doctor any over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements they are taking.

If you are concerned about potential interactions between medications that you are taking your doctor can offer an alternative prescription that does not risk an interaction.

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