MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Two antiviral pills are approved to treat high-risk patients who have contracted COVID-19. One is already in limited circulation in the state, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH); but doctors warn this is not a one-size-fits-all medication.

Dr. Wes Stubblefield with the ADPH said these pills are extremely promising when it comes to helping keep people out of the hospital, but for some patients, they can be less effective, and even potentially dangerous, if mixed with certain medications.

Stubblefield said it is incredibly important to have an open dialogue with your doctor before finalizing a prescription for either Merck or Pfizer’s antiviral pill.

A limited supply of Pfizer’s prescription is available at select Walmart pharmacies throughout the state. Stubblefield said Merck’s should be shipping soon.

Even though Pfizer’s is nearly 90% effective in preventing severe illness, compared to Merck’s 30%, he said Pfizer’s can cause more, and even potentially toxic, interactions if the patient is also taking certain types of blood thinners, anti-depressants, painkillers and more, according to the FDA.

If the patient has kidney or liver disease, the medicine’s dosage may need to be altered on an individual basis to make sure they can clear it.

Dr. Stubblefield said the burden is on a prescriber, but it can get complicated, especially if a patient goes to a walk-in clinic that may not have a medical history on file. That’s why he says it’s crucial for the patient to do their due diligence.

“It is absolutely critical that everyone who is prescribed this medication speak to the prescriber to tell them exactly what they’re on so they can check the lists and make sure there is not a complication with that particular medication, and the list is pretty extensive to be honest,” he said.

Stubblefield said the pill is not a substitute for vaccination and supply is still extremely limited at this point across the nation, including Alabama.

For the FDA’s list of medications for Pfizer’s prescription, also known as Paxlovid, click here. The table with the list of potentially interactive medications is Table 1, pages 9-15.