Prescription COVID pills rolling out soon in Illinois

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Some pharmacies in Illinois will soon carry two free prescription COVID pills.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said Thursday it expected the drugs to be available by the end of the month. Paxlovid, from Pfizer, and Molnupiravir, from Merck, are meant for people “with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for becoming severely ill,” IDPH said. The health department said the drugs should be taken as soon as possible after diagnosis and within five days of symptoms beginning. IDPH said Paxlovid could reduce the risk of hospitalization by 89%, and Molnupiravir could do so by about 30%.

“These new oral antivirals add new tools to our toolbox to keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “While vaccination, including boosters, is still the best way to avoid infection and prevent severe illness from COVID-19, these new antivirals given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration can help treat those who get infected and have a higher risk of becoming severely ill.”

Molnupiravir, IDPH said, is meant to be used when other treatment is not available. The agency said Molnupiravir is not to be used in patients who are pregnant or younger than 18 because it may affect bone and cartilage growth.

IDPH said the new drugs have a limited supply, and the state will get a new shipment every two weeks. You should check IDPH’s COVID treatment page in the coming weeks for details, including which pharmacies have the pills.

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