What, Exactly, Is ‘Paxlovid Mouth’ and How Do You Get Rid of It?

The Covid-19 antiviral drug can leave a foul taste. The afflicted are scouring for remedies online.

Authors: Alex Janin Aug. 16, 2022 Wall Street Journal

Jeanette Witten recently rummaged through her pantry for Red Hots, the cinnamon-flavored candy.

The 56-year-old in Montclair, N.J., was looking for a reprieve from a persistent residual taste—“like your mouth is just clenched around a grapefruit rind”—that came after she took Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral drug to treat Covid-19. 

Ms. Witten is one of many people who have scouted remedies for what is informally known as Paxlovid mouth, a taste that can linger for as long as you take the drug. Patients who have taken Paxlovid have described it as sun-baked trash-bag liquid, a mouthful of dirty pennies and rotten soymilk. They have tried to erase the taste with salves from cinnamon to milk to pineapple. They are also trading strategies online. 

Pfizer spokesperson acknowledged the side effect, called dysgeusia, and pointed to a study that found the symptom occurred 5.6% of the time people took the drug. The study was funded by Pfizer and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The company said most patients’ dysgeusia symptoms were mild.

A weekly look at our most colorful, thought-provoking and original feature stories on the business of life.

The culprit is likely ritonavir, a part of the drug that is used to boost levels of antiviral medicines, doctors say. Ritonavir has a known association with dysgeusia. It is a small price to pay given the nearly 90% reduction in hospitalization and death among those at risk for severe disease from Covid-19, say doctors and people who have taken the medication. 

But it’s still hard for many patients to stomach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.