Paxlovid

Paxlovid is an oral medicine taken as tablets. It is used to treat COVID-19 (coronavirus) and has been authorised for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

It’s available to people who are at the highest risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.

How Paxlovid works

Paxlovid works by reducing the ability of the virus to multiply in your body. This helps your body fight the infection and may prevent you from getting seriously ill.

It has been found to be effective at reducing serious illness or death in some groups of people who are at the highest risk from COVID-19.

Who can have Paxlovid

You may be recommended Paxlovid if all of these apply to you:

Who may not be able to have Paxlovid

Paxlovid is not suitable for some people. 

To make sure it's safe for you, tell your doctor or nurse if you:

  • have ever had an allergic reaction to Paxlovid or any of its ingredients
  • are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have severe kidney or liver disease
  • take some other medications - your doctor will discuss this with you

Paxlovid and other medicines

It is important for your doctor or hospital consultant to know about all medicines you take.

Have a list of your medicines and dosage ready.

This should include all prescribed medicines and any medicines you buy over the counter. Include herbal remedies, vitamins and supplements.

How to make a list of your medicines

To make a list, have all your medicines in front of you.

Include all the medicines you take regularly and occasionally, such as:

  • prescription medicines - include inhalers, patches, injections, creams, eye drops
  • over-the-counter medicines
  • vitamins and other supplements
  • herbal, homeopathic or alternative medicines

Write down:

  • the strength of each medicine - for example, 50mg
  • how much you take each day - for example, 2 tablets
  • the time you take the medicine - for example, at night

Also include:

  • any allergies you have
  • the contact numbers of your family doctor and pharmacist

Template of a medicines list

If you need a template, download a copy of the 'My medicines list' (PDF, 248 KB, 2 pages).

You may be able to get a physical copy of this list from your pharmacist.

You can also ask your pharmacist or GP to print out a copy of your medicines for you.

Pregnancy and Paxlovid

Talk to your doctor or hospital consultant before taking Paxlovid if you are:

  • pregnant
  • think you may be pregnant
  • trying to get pregnant

There is little information about the use of Paxlovid in pregnancy because this medicine is new. The risks and benefits of the treatment for you and your baby are currently unknown.

Your doctor or hospital consultant will advise you if the benefits of treatment are greater than the possible risks for you and your baby.

Breastfeeding and Paxlovid

You should stop breastfeeding while you are taking Paxlovid and for 7 days after finishing the medicine course.

Talk to your doctor or hospital consultant before taking Paxlovid if you are breastfeeding.

How and when to take Paxlovid

If Paxlovid is recommended for you, you’ll have treatment as soon as possible after you've had a positive COVID-19 test.

Paxlovid is only recommended to be taken within 5 days of your symptoms starting.

Paxlovid comes in a pack of pink (nirmatrelvir 150mg) and white (ritonavir 100mg) tablets.

Unless told otherwise by your doctor, pharmacist or consultant, the usual dose of Paxlovid is to take 2 pink tablets and 1 white tablet at the same time, twice a day, for 5 days.

Side effects of Paxlovid

Like all medicines, Paxlovid can cause side effects in some people.

Common side effects of Paxlovid are:

  • headache
  • change in taste
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting

Serious side effects

In rare cases, Paxlovid may cause a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Signs of a severe allergic reaction include:

  • wheezing or coughing
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling
  • you suddenly feel weak or light-headed
  • you get a skin rash that may include red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • your skin is itchy

You will need emergency help if you have a serious allergic reaction. Phone 112 or 999, or go to an emergency department (ED) immediately if you have any of these symptoms and are not already in hospital.

Read page 39 of this EMA Paxlovid patient information leaflet for a full list of side effects

If you get any side effects, talk to your doctor.

Report any suspected side effects to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA)

More information

For more information, read the patient information leaflet that comes in the package of your medicine.

This content was fact checked by HSE health professionals.