The Quebec government is expanding access to antiviral drug Paxlovid, announcing Thursday that it will soon be available in pharmacies.

Patients will have to obtain a prescription from a physician or specialized nurse practitioner following a positive COVID-19 test result.

The oral antiviral drug, approved by Health Canada on Jan. 17, is intended to reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms in people at risk of developing serious complications.

It would also reduce the risk of being hospitalized or dying from the coronavirus.

Treatment with Paxlovid should be initiated within five days of the onset of symptoms, experts say, and physicians must determine that it will not interfere with any medications the person is currently taking.

Access to the drug will be available for adults with moderate to severe immunosuppression, people 60 years of age and older, pregnant women and people who have not been vaccinated or who have only been partially vaccinated.

Access will also be available for people aged 18 and up with specific conditions including hemoglobinopathy, renal or chronic failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart failure and chronic lung disease.

The Quebec Health Ministry adds other conditions may be added to the list.

Based on the available data, the use of Paxlovid appears to have minimal impact on people suffering from minor symptoms of COVID-19.

— This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 17, 2022.

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