President Biden taking Paxlovid to help with COVID-19 recovery, here’s how it works

President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday morning, and is taking Paxlovid, the drug used to treat COVID-19, the White House said.

According to the FDA, Paxlovid is authorized for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing about 88 pounds) with a positive COVID-19 test, who are at high risk for severe illness, including hospitalization or death. 

"The goal of Paxlovid is to keep people from getting seriously ill, and so, it continues to work," Ashish JHA, M.D., White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said.

Doctors said it speeds up recovery when taken in a timely manner.

MORE: 'This is not gone': COVID-19 cases on the rise across Florida

"You really want to get it within the first four to five days after you have symptoms. After that, the virus is pretty well drilled down into your system, has done a lot of the damage that it's going to do," Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished USF Health professor said.

They said it’s very similar to how the flu is treated.

"And if you were positive for the flu, they'd give you a prescription for Tamiflu, and then you'd go away, and you'd feel kind of crappy for a day or two. But then you start to recover. And I think that's basically where I'd like to see things go with Paxlovid as well," Unnasch said.

Paxlovid requires a prescription. Earlier this month the FDA expanded access to the drug authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid to eligible patients.

With COVID cases on the rise in Florida due to the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, doctors said it’s also important to be current on vaccinations and boosters as they also reduce the risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.