Doctor speaking with older couple during COVID-19 pandemic

As news that COVID-19 activity has declined emerged Monday, a new study was released showing that people vulnerable to severe COVID-19 who took nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (Paxlovid) had a lower risk for being hospitalized with the disease or dying from any cause. But people over 70 who were not extremely vulnerable to complications from COVID-19 infection didn’t seem to benefit from taking the medication.

The study on 6,866 people from British Columbia with COVID-19 found that taking the drug was linked to having a lower risk for being hospitalized for, or dying from, COVID-19 if people were especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The biggest benefit researchers saw was in people who were immunocompromised. 

Lower-risk people didn’t have a reduction in death from any cause or emergency hospitalization with COVID-19 within 28 days of taking the medication. That included people over the age of 70 with serious comorbidities. The researchers say that was the finding regardless of age. 

The study, which was published in JAMA Network Open on Monday, occurred between Feb. 1, 2022, and Feb. 3, 2023. The researchers looked at death from any cause, or hospitalization with COVID-19, within a 28-day span.

Researchers put people into high-risk groups. Some were clinically extremely vulnerable or moderately immunocompromised. A third group wasn’t immunocompromised but had medical conditions that put them at a high risk for complications from COVID-19. A fourth group included people at a lower risk for severe infection, including those who were over 70 years old or unvaccinated.

In short, people who had high risk, moderate risk or those considered immunocompromised lowered their risk for COVID-19 hospitalization or death when taking Paxlovid, but people at a lower risk didn’t seem to benefit. Also Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report from the week ending Sept. 23  that showed that COVID-19 activity fell with the exception of deaths, which rose by 8%. New hospital admissions slipped by 3.1%. The percentage of deaths from COVID-19 was 2.7% that week.