Wisconsin receives first round of COVID-19 antiviral pills

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin received its first allocation of COVID-19 antiviral pills, the Department of Health Services announced Wednesday.

The pills, molnupiravir and Paxlovid, can help treat patients who have mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19.

This initial supply is extremely limited, and the National Institutes of Health advised doctors to prioritize prescribing the treatment to patients who are at greatest risk of severe illness or hospitalization from COVID-19.

“These drugs are not a substitution for protecting yourself by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public places,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in a statement. “We are committed to distributing these pills equitably across the state, and access will increase as Wisconsin receives more allocations from the federal government.”

Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir pills were approved by the FDA last month. The pills must be taken within 5 days of a patient exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

The Paxlovid pill is authorized for people over the age of 12, and the molnupiravir pill is authorized for adults over 18 who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

Both pills help limit severe cases of COVID-19.

“As our hospitals approach capacity and the Omicron variant spreads rapidly in Wisconsin, antiviral pills will help prevent severe disease,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jonathan Meiman said.

Wisconsin received 940 courses of Paxlovid and 4,320 courses of molnupiravir. The pills will be distributed to select pharmacies by Friday, the DHS said.

Officials said vaccination remains the best protection from serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.