Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease physician, said he is experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 symptoms after taking Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid.
Fauci, 81, contracted COVID-19 earlier this month and although his symptoms were “minimal” initially, he was prescribed a five-day course of Paxlovid as it worsened due to his age.
Paxlovid is the main treatment for COVID-19 and is used to reduce the risk of serious illness in high-risk people who test positive, including unvaccinated individuals and the elderly. The drug was made available in December 2021 under an emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration.
Fauci said Tuesday at a global health summit on foreign policy that he tested negative three days in a row after he finished taking Paxlovid.
But on the fourth day, Fauci said he tested positive again, a phenomenon called a “Paxlovid rebound.”
Dozens of patients have reported a similar experience, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month warned health care providers to watch for a “rebound” in Paxlovid patients between two and eight days after an initial recovery.
However, a rebound does not mean that a person is re-infected. Officials and experts have said they believe it is part of the virus’ “natural history” and can occur regardless of a person’s vaccination status.
Fauci said he felt “really bad” and his symptoms got much worse in the day or two after the rebound, and he started a second course of Paxlovid.
According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence that additional Paxlovid treatment is needed when there is a suspected rebound.
Similarly, the Food and Drug Administration stated that “there is currently no evidence of benefit for a longer course of treatment… or repeating a course of treatment with Paxlovid in patients with recurrent COVID-19 symptoms after completion of a course of treatment.”
Both disease recurrence and positive test results improved or resolved within approximately three days without additional anti-COVID-19 treatment.
Fauci has been the face of the government’s response to COVID-19 for more than two years and has previously avoided testing positive for the virus. But his positive test was the latest in a long line of high-profile cases among lawmakers and government officials in Washington, D.C.
The White House has maintained that tools such as vaccines, boosters and Paxlovid mean the country is in a new era of the virus in which cases have been suppressed to some extent.