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Reduce your risk of severe COVID-19 with Paxlovid

By Christina Varvatsis, PharmD, BCPS May 22, 2024 • 7 min


While you may be taking steps to prevent getting COVID-19, the reality is you may end up getting infected. You probably know by now that getting vaccinated, increasing distance between you and others, and good hand hygiene can help prevent severe COVID-19. You may also know that there are antiviral treatment options available if you do get sick and are high risk, such as Paxlovid. What you may not know is that Walgreens pharmacists are able to prescribe treatment with Paxlovid for you, if you are eligible.

Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir; ritonavir) is an oral antiviral treatment used to treat adults and children age 12 and older with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms who are at risk of developing severe illness. The treatment targets a specific part of the COVID-19 virus, preventing it from multiplying in the body, which can help reduce your risk of developing severe illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a clinical trial, Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 86% in individuals with COVID-19 at higher risk of severe disease.

Who is considered high risk?

People with certain risk factors are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 and may be recommended to receive antiviral treatment like Paxlovid. Risk factors include:

  • Being over the age of 50, with the risk increasing significantly for those age 65 and older  
  • Being unvaccinated or not being up to date with COVID-19 vaccine recommendations
  • Specific medical conditions and behaviors, including but not limited to diabetes, obesity, asthma, COPD, cancer, certain heart conditions, smoking, HIV and other immunocompromising health conditions

Who is eligible for Paxlovid treatment?

 Paxlovid is FDA approved to treat people:

  • Who have tested positive for (or been diagnosed with) COVID-19 and are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms in the five days prior to treatment
  • Who are age 12 or older and weigh at least 88 pounds (40 kilograms)
  • Who are at high risk for severe COVID-19

Paxlovid must be started within five days of developing symptoms, so contact your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible to determine if Paxlovid treatment is an option for you.

How should Paxlovid be taken?

Paxlovid contains two different antiviral medications, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, packaged together in a dose pack. You’ll need to take the two tablets together twice daily for five days, in the morning and evening, even if you start to feel better before that.

Follow the directions on your prescription and dose pack for information on how many tablets to take. If you have kidney disease, your healthcare provider may prescribe a lower dose. 

Can I get Paxlovid at Walgreens?

Yes, Walgreens pharmacists can prescribe Paxlovid to eligible patients.1 To determine your eligibility, we will need you to:

  1. Complete an initial eligibility screener, including kidney and liver function lab work completed in the last 12 months, uploaded for a Walgreens pharmacist to review. The screener is free and completed online.
  2. If you are initially eligible, a Walgreens pharmacist will call you to perform a clinical assessment. The assessment costs $44.99, paid in store or online, regardless of whether you receive treatment. Contact your insurance company to determine whether the assessment is covered. Medicaid does not cover it at this time.
  3. If you’ve met all the eligibility criteria, the pharmacist will prescribe Paxlovid, and you can pick it up at a nearby Walgreens. There is no cost to you for the medication. If you are not eligible for treatment at Walgreens, the pharmacist will refer you to a healthcare provider.

To learn more about this program and to complete an eligibility screener, visit Walgreens.com/COVIDTreatment.

If I have Medicare, Medicaid or am uninsured, how much does Paxlovid cost?

If you have Medicare, Medicaid or are uninsured, you may be eligible to receive Paxlovid at no cost through PAXCESS Patient Assistance program.2 To enroll:

  1. Visit PAXCESSPatientPortal.com or call 877-219-7225.
  2. Complete the online questionnaire.
  3. If eligible, bring billing information to the pharmacy.

If I have private insurance, how much does Paxlovid cost?

Patients with private health insurance may be eligible to get their Paxlovid prescription for as low as $0 with the PAXCESS Co-Pay Savings Program.3 Walgreens will first bill your insurance and then confirm potential copay amount.  You may apply for PAXCESS Co-Pay Savings Program to cover any out-of-pocket costs. To check eligibility:

  1. Enroll in the Co-Pay Savings Program to download an activated card.
  2. Activate your copay card to unlock your savings.
  3. Complete a rebate form to see if you can get reimbursed for your prescription.

Can I pick up a Paxlovid prescription that my doctor prescribes at Walgreens?

Yes, Walgreens pharmacists can dispense Paxlovid in nearly every location if it is prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Are there any side effects or risks associated with Paxlovid treatment?

Like many medications, Paxlovid may cause mild side effects. Some of the side effects may include muscle aches, nausea or abdominal pain. Rarely, patients can develop an allergic reaction or liver problems. Let your healthcare provider know if you develop hives, have trouble breathing, or if you have any signs of liver problems, including loss of appetite or abdominal pain.

Be sure to let your healthcare provider know about any side effects that bother you or don’t go away. 

Updated May 2024.

Disclaimers

  1. Once the patient completes the initial eligibility check and is determined eligible for further assessment, the patient will be contacted by phone by a Walgreens pharmacist to complete the clinical assessment ("Assessment"). There is a $44.99 fee for Assessment ("Fee") which is nonrefundable, regardless of the assessment outcome. Patient(s) must contact their insurance provider(s) to determine if the fee is eligible for coverage. Assessment is not available for Medicaid patients at this time. Patients must be prescribed Paxlovid from a Walgreens pharmacist or healthcare provider following a positive COVID-19 viral test and completion of assessment.
  2. With a focus on ensuring access for patients, the U.S. Government Patient Assistance Program (USG PAP), operated by Pfizer, will continue to provide patients on Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, VA Community Care Network, and those who are uninsured access to PAXLOVID for free through December 31, 2024. PAXLOVID through the USG PAP is not available to patients who have commercial prescription drug health insurance. The USG PAP operated by Pfizer is an independent program with separate eligibility requirements offered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and is not owned by Pfizer. Terms and conditions apply. Full terms and conditions for the USG PAP may be found here.
  3. Eligible, commercially insured patients can save up to $1,500 per prescription. Maximum annual savings up to $1,500. Terms and conditions apply. Full terms and conditions for the Co-Pay Program may be found here.