German government buys large stock of newly approved Covid medicine

Paxlovid
A Pfizer employee picks up a dose of the Paxlovid anti-Covid medication. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Pfizer | Uncredited
Germany has ordered one million packets of a new Covid medicine designed to prevent severe illness and hospitalisation, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) announced on Tuesday.

The drug, which is manufactured by Pfizer under the brand name Paxlovid, is the first anti-Covid medication that can be taken in tablet form and reportedly offers protection against severe courses of Covid. 

“The drug is extremely promising because it can significantly weaken the severe course of Covid when administered early,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told DPA on Tuesday. “I expect that we will be able to prevent numerous severe courses in intensive care units with it.”

The United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency approval for the new drug just before Christmas, giving doctors an additional treatment option in the fight against severe Covid. 

READ ALSO: German health agency raises Covid risk level for the vaccinated and recovered

Lauterbach said Germany would be following suit with a similar emergency approval so that the drug could be used as soon as it is delivered in January. 

“Slowly, through a combination of increasingly effective vaccines and treatment options, Covid is becoming a disease that will lose its terror,” he said, adding that there would be cooperation with all drug manufacturers who were developing appropriate medicines to protect against hospitalisation or death from Covid.

“I’d rather that with rapid vaccination and effective drugs, we fight this battle than have to close schools,” he added.

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According to the manufacturer, patients are required to take three tablets twice a day for five days. All tablets are in one pack, which corresponds to one treatment cycle.

Paxlovid consists, among other things, of the active ingredient nirmatrelvir, which inhibits a Sars-CoV-2 protein in order to stop the multiplication of the virus.

The FDA has recommended that the drug is used to treat positive Covid patients aged 12 and older with mild to moderate symptoms and a high risk of a worsening disease. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also taken a view on the new medicine, saying that Paxlovid could be used to treat adult patients who do not need supplemental oxygen but who are at increased risk for a severe course of Covid.

The drug has not yet been officially approved in the EU, but testing is ongoing.

89 percent protection

According to Pfizer, the pills have been very successful in preventing severe disease progression in high-risk patients: an interim analysis of test results showed that the drug reduced the risk of hospitalisation and death in Covid-19 patients by 89 percent.

Possible side effects include impaired sense of taste, diarrhoea, high blood pressure and muscle pain. The EMA had also said that the drug shouldn’t be taken by patients with severe kidney or liver dysfunction and should not be taken in combination with certain other medicines because of drug interactions. The drug is not recommended for pregnant women.

Drugs like Paxlovid are considered by experts to be a pillar in the fight against the coronavirus, though compared to preventive vaccinations, they are significantly more expensive and often more complicated to use.

In its emergency approval this month, the FDA stated that the drug was not a substitute for vaccination for the general population.

READ ALSO: German Ethics Council recommends extending vaccine mandates


Member comments

  1. Guys, what your saying about ivermectin simply isn’t true. While it might be a fairly safe drug, there is no good evidence of effectiveness against COVID. This has nothing to do with drug companies or anything like that (for example, dexamethasone is equally cheap and off-patent, but has been shown to be effective against COVID…governments are fine with that drug being used). Much of what is being said above is conspiracy nonsense.

    As a suggestion, the best used of this drug would be IN ADDITION to vaccines. COVID vaccines are effective, but they won’t prevent every hospitalization. This drug won’t prevent every hospitalization either, but it will help bring COVID under control.

  2. Why does the German government not use cheap effective safe Ivermectin that has been tried and tested in worldwide especially India and Japan. Time to stop this financial love in with companies like Pfizer recently hit with record fines in the US.

    1. Ivermectin is effective if you live in the 3rd world and have worms but beyond that it isn’t much help. Oh and in case you didn’t know ivermictin is manufactured by Merck, a large very profitable drug company.

      1. @Bobabroad Unfortunately Ivermectin is not manufactured by Merck as it is now out of patent and of no financial interest to them. It is manufactured in India very cheaply and in very large quantities. It has been used there both as a prophylaxis and as a treatment with great success in most states.
        Figures published comparing the African countries that regularly use it to counteract River Blindness and other complaints, show that they have suffered a very much lower level of Covid mortality than the African countries that do not.
        The essential point about Ivermectin, apart from clear evidence that it is effective, is that it is extremely safe. So why not take it? What harm would it do? Why do governments in the West block its use? These questions need answering.

        1. You peaked my interest so I did a bit more googling and it seems the evidence is mixed on its use. I do agree that for what ever reason there has been very little thought/effort into early treatment.

          As an aside for it is really really difficult to find balanced well thought out information. When it comes to covid things go to the extremes fake news/99.9 percenters or fear panic china style lockdowns. My home province of Ontario is in the midst of a massive social panic over omincron dispite the evidence showing it is overall much more mild, comparable to the flu/cold. Most have minor systems while a few get really really sick.

          Thankfully it looks like that is the end of the line for delta and I figure by summer the pandemic should be mostly behind us. Unfortunately like 9-11 we’ll be living with pandemic restrictions for many many years

          1. @Bob abroad Thanks for your reply. The evidence is indeed mixed largely because there is powerful pro vaccine lobby that ‘mixes’ it.
            But as I say, it is a harmless medicine, why not let people use it if they want to? In France doctors who want to prescribe it are harassed by their professional association. This is bizarre and scandalous. I understand it is allowed for use in the Czech Republic.
            One thing is sure the relationship between western governments and the pharma companies is unhealthily close. This is what has polluted the whole question of treatment.
            In the UK Boris said on 27 Jan in the House of Commons that the Medicines task force was looking into the use of Ivermectin. Nothing has happened. Why not?

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