Colorado doctors warn about drug interactions with new COVID-19 treatment pills

DENVER (KDVR) – New drugs approved to treat COVID-19 may pose a risk depending on what other medications patients are taking.

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, new antiviral pills provide a sense of hope for many. Pfizer says its pill reduced hospitalization and severe infection by nearly 90 percent if taken within 3 days of the patient showing symptoms.

However, only few patients may have access to this alternative in Colorado currently.

“The supply is very limited so you want to give it to your patients that are covid positive with the highest risk of progression to hospitalization,” UCHealth’s Vice President of Pharmacy Services Amy Gutierrez said.

The tricky part is, those at high risk often are taking medications daily to treat chronic conditions and health professionals say research shows these covid pills, particularly Paxlovid, could have interactions with a number of those meds.

“I’m looking at the list and it’s probably about 30 drugs that you’ve got that are contraindicated,” Gutierrez said.

“If you are on this medication and on a cholesterol medicine, either the cholesterol medicine may not make this medicine work as effectively or the drug may interact with that other medicine so you could get dizzy, you could get light headed if you are on an alpha blocker, ”HealthOne Physician Services Group Chief Medical Officer Dr. Scott Joy said.

From blood thinners, seizure meds, antidepressants and sleep aids to renal issues and HIV, these Colorado pharmacy and hospital heads tell the Fox31 Problem Solvers they’ll have to weigh the risks of these interactions before giving out a prescription.

“Somebody that may have HIV, one of the agents in Paxolvid is an HIV medication so how does that impact if they have uncontrolled or undiagnosed HIV, we also have to consider that as well,” Gutierrez said. “I think right now if they are contraindicated then we’re not using.”

In those situations where contradictions aren’t an issue, or prescribers find it is worth the risk for the individual patient, they want the pill load commitment of the treatments to also be considered.

“We want to avoid any resistance or mutations that could come from partially treating this,” Dr. Joy said. “We know that is something that comes up with antibiotics. We do not know yet with this class of drugs but if you are going to get a prescription for this, you have to commit to taking six to eight pills for five days. ”

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