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Paxlovid treatment in 20% of COVID-19 patients could avert 850,000 hospitalizations, save as much as $170 billion

In a recent study published within the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers used data from a big case-cohort clinical trial (1,120 cases, 1,126 controls) to simulate 24 separate scenarios wherein using the Pfizer-developed antiviral drug ‘Paxlovid’ may benefit the Stated States of America’s (US’s) medical and economic sectors. Their analyses revealed that treating just 20% of COVID-19 patients within the country could end in years of lives lost (YLL) and monetary savings between 0.28 to 0.85 million and US $56.95 billion to US $170.17 billion, respectively, for low- and high-transmission scenarios. These findings support using the drug to counteract the impacts of the disease on the American people.



Study: Public Health Impact of Paxlovid as Treatment for COVID-19, United States. Image Credit: Dmitriy Prayzel / Shutterstock

Everyone’s talking about vaccines, but what about individuals who have already caught the disease?

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) caused coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), undoubtedly the worst pandemic in American memory. The viral infection has already surpassed the 1 million death toll and price the US people billions in unprecedented infrastructure and economic loss. The appearance of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccinations against the disease and the implementation of social distancing restrictions significantly hampered the spread of the disease but did little to treat the hundreds of thousands of patients already burdened with COVID-19 infections.

Antiviral drugs have shown great promise in treating individuals with viral ailments, most notably within the case of antiretroviral therapy against human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). Historically, oseltamivir, an antiviral used against the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, is estimated to have saved 63% of hospitalizations. Paxlovid, a Pfizer-developed antiviral, has the potential for even greater years of lives lost (YLL) and economic savings for the US. The drug, a mixture of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, two antivirals with clinically proven anti-COVID-19 efficacy, received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization on December 22, 2021.

Research on the advantages of Paxlovid has hitherto revealed that “treating symptomatic COVID-19 patients with Paxlovid reduces hospitalization risks by an estimated 0.59 for adults 18–49 years of age, 0.40 for adults 50–64 years of age, and 0.53 for adults >64 years of age.” Most encouragingly, Paxlovid has proven effective against Omicron subvariants, answerable for a lot of the current global COVID-19 burden, and essentially the most aggressive clade of SARS-COV-2 yet. Nonetheless, predictions addressing the true advantages of the drug remain lacking.

In regards to the study

In the current study, researchers used data from a cohort of greater than 2,200 COVID-19 patients to research the population-level advantages of Paxlovid utilization. They then built within-host viral replication models to simulate 24 separate COVID-19 transmission scenarios.

Data for the study comprised individual patient viral loads from a Paxlovid clinical trial, including 1,120 cases receiving Paxlovid and 1,126 controls receiving a placebo. The info was used to disclose 1. infection rates of susceptible cells (b), 2. the speed at which infected cells die (c), 3. the virus production rate (p), and the efficacy of Paxlovid at suppressing viral replication (). A stochastic approximation expectation-maximization algorithm was used to enhance simulation accuracy.

“On the idea of previous studies, we assumed that an individual’s infectiousness is logarithmically related to their viral titer (Appendix). On this transmission model, we assumed that the every day infectiousness of a case-patient relies on whether or not they received treatment and, in that case, the time at which treatment was initiated after symptom onset.”

To further improve the real-world application of the models, the simulations were tuned to 9,961 individuals living in 5,000 households whose sociodemographic data was acquired from the National Household Travel Survey (2017). Results from Paxlovid versus no intervention were used to compute YLL averted metrics and monetary savings.

Study findings

Findings from the study revealed that the common rate of viral infections of susceptible cells is 3.92 x 10−6 mL/copies/day, the clearance rates were 0.62 per day, and the production rates were 3.19 mL/copies/day. Impressively, Paxlovid treatment was estimated to suppress 99.37% of viral replication.

Projected health and economic impacts of a large-scale campaign using Paxlovid to treat COVID-19 over 300 days in the United States, across a range of transmission and treatment scenarios. Points and error bars correspond to means and 95% CI in number of infections in millions (A), number of deaths in millions (B), net monetary benefit in billions USD assuming a treatment course cost of US $530 and willingness to pay per year of life lost averted of US $100,000 (C), and number of courses of Paxlovid administered in millions (D). Each graph provides results for 3 Rt and 5 different treatment scenarios: 0% (blue), 20% (red), 50% (green), 80% (purple), or 100% (orange) of symptomatic cases started a 5-day course of Paxlovid within 3 days of symptom onset. Distributions are based on 100 stochastic simulations for each scenario. The results are scaled assuming a US population of 328.2 million (21). Rt, effective reproduction number; USD, US dollars.

Projected health and economic impacts of a large-scale campaign using Paxlovid to treat COVID-19 over 300 days in america, across a spread of transmission and treatment scenarios. Points and error bars correspond to means and 95% CI in variety of infections in hundreds of thousands (A), variety of deaths in hundreds of thousands (B), net monetary profit in billions USD assuming a treatment course cost of US $530 and willingness to pay per 12 months of life lost averted of US $100,000 (C), and variety of courses of Paxlovid administered in hundreds of thousands (D). Each graph provides results for 3 Rt and 5 different treatment scenarios: 0% (blue), 20% (red), 50% (green), 80% (purple), or 100% (orange) of symptomatic cases began a 5-day course of Paxlovid inside 3 days of symptom onset. Distributions are based on 100 stochastic simulations for every scenario. The outcomes are scaled assuming a US population of 328.2 million (21). Rt, effective reproduction number; USD, US dollars.

Of the 24 transmission scenarios simulated, the low- (reproduction number = 1.2) and high-transmission (number = 3) ones revealed YLL aversions of between 0.28 and 0.85 million patients and economic savings of between US $56.95 billion to US $170.17 billion if even only 20% of COVID-19 patients were treated with the antiviral drug.

When teasing apart the direct advantages (therapeutic) and indirect (transmission-reducing) effects of Paxlovid, researchers found that over 300 days, early Paxlovid interventions could reduce COVID-19-related mortality by 16,470 cases and avert 140,000 hospitalizations. Encouragingly, the indirect advantages matched the direct ones and were also predicted to scale back infection rates substantially by 10.57 million or more.

“We’d expect mass treatment campaigns to have even greater health and economic effects in countries which have adopted zero-COVID strategies and thus have lower levels of population-level immunity than america.”

Conclusions

The current study highlights the advantages to human lives and monetary savings that antivirals like Paxlovid can provide within the fight against COVID-19. Analyses and simulation modeling of knowledge from over 2,200 patients revealed that treating only 20% of the affected population with the drug could save 0.85 million patients and forestall 140,000 hospitalizations per day, curbing economic burden by US $170.17 billion or more.

“Drugs like Paxlovid could profoundly reduce the severity of COVID-19 and enable a world transition to manageable coexistence with the virus. Nonetheless, providing equitable and effective global access to SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drugs would require each ample supplies and broad-reaching test-and-treat programs.”

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