Paxlovid rebound COVID cases aren’t common, experts say

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 1:02 PM CDT
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(CNN) - President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci and “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert all tested positive for COVID-19 a second time after taking the antiviral therapy Paxlovid.

So how common is a Paxlovid rebound?

Health experts said they believe Paxlovid, an antiviral pill used to treat COVID-19, is still a good treatment option.

As of mid-August in the U.S., about 4 million courses of Paxlovid have been administered, the Department of Health and Human Services said.

But some people who have taken the antiviral pill are testing positive a second time.

“We know people who are older are more likely to rebound,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine.

Several studies have tracked rebound cases including a preprint study that looked at cases during the omicron wave.

It found 2% to 4% percent of patients experienced a rebound infection or symptoms within a week after treatment, while 5% to 6% had a rebound within a month.

Experts said that rebound cases are probably more common than data shows, but by how much is hard to tell.

“But at the end of the day, none of the cases that have rebound has ended up having more severe disease or has ended up in the hospital, so I still think Paxlovid is an incredibly useful drug,” del Rio said.

That’s why experts said overall, Paxlovid is still a good option for treatment for people over the age of 65, those who are immunocompromised or adults who have underlying conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

In a statement, Paxlovid manufacturer Pfizer said, “While further evaluation is needed, we continue to monitor data from our ongoing clinical studies. ... We remain very confident in its clinical effectiveness at preventing severe outcomes from COVID-19 in patients at increased risk.”

Both President Biden and Fauci received a second course of Paxlovid to treat their rebound cases.

The Food and Drug Administration has requested more data from Pfizer to study patients who may need a second course of treatment.

There’s some thinking that patients may need to take Paxlovid longer, and the FDA is looking into that.