old man blowing nose with a wipe

Reduce your risk of severe COVID-19 with Paxlovid

By Christina Varvatsis, PharmD, BCPS Sep 07, 2023 • 5 min

No matter how many steps you take to prevent getting COVID-19, eventually you may end up testing positive. And while you probably know what to do to avoid severe COVID-19 (wear masks, get vaccinated, etc.), you may not know that there are treatment options available if you do get sick and are high risk, including Paxlovid. Luckily, Walgreens pharmacists are able to prescribe Paxlovid for you, depending on eligibility.

Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir; ritonavir) is an oral antiviral treatment used to treat adults and children age 12 and older with mild to moderate COVID-19 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 benefit from receiving 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?

The FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Paxlovid to treat people:

  • Who have tested positive for (or been diagnosed with) COVID-19 and are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms
  • 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 antivirals, 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.

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 now prescribe Paxlovid to eligible patients. To determine eligibility, you need to:

  1. Complete an initial eligibility screener and upload kidney and liver function lab work for a Walgreens pharmacist to review. The screener is free and completed online.
  2. If you’re deemed potentially 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’re eligible, the pharmacist will prescribe Paxlovid at no cost to you, and you can pick it up at a nearby Walgreens. If you’re ineligible, the pharmacist will refer you to a healthcare provider.

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

Can I still 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, including 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. 

Published September 2023.