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SPRINGFIELD  – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced Thursday that two newly approved drugs that treat COVID-19 would be available by prescription at state pharmacies by the end of the month.

The oral antivirals, Paxlovid (Pfizer) and Molnupiravir (Merck), will be available by prescription only and will help to prevent severe illness. Health officials said those COVID-stricken should take both antivirals after being diagnosed with the virus and within five days of experiencing symptoms.

Paxlovid is expected to reduce the risk of hospitalizations by 89% and Molnupiravir by about 30%, state health officials add. Molnupiravir is meant for use when other treatment options are not available.

“These new oral antivirals add new tools to our toolbox to keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “While vaccination, including boosters, is still the best way to avoid infection and prevent severe illness from COVID-19, these new antivirals given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration can help treat those who get infected and have a higher risk of becoming severely ill.”

Molnupiravir is not authorized for use in patients who are pregnant or younger than 18 years of age.

Health officials expect both antivirals to be distributed to Walgreens and Walmart stores and other pharmacies in the coming weeks. A list of full providers is still being composed.

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