Real-world use of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir in outpatients with COVID-19 during the era of omicron variants including BA.4 and BA.5 in Colorado, USA: a retrospective cohort study

Lancet Infect Dis. 2023 Jun;23(6):696-705. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(23)00011-7. Epub 2023 Feb 10.


Background: Nirmatrelvir is a protease inhibitor with in-vitro activity against SARS-CoV-2, and ritonavir-boosted nirmatrelvir can reduce the risk of progression to severe COVID-19 among individuals at high risk infected with delta and early omicron variants. However, less is known about the effectiveness of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir during more recent BA.2, BA2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 omicron variant surges. We used our real-world data platform to evaluate the effect of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir treatment on 28-day hospitalisation, mortality, and emergency department visits among outpatients with early symptomatic COVID-19 during a SARS-CoV-2 omicron (BA.2, BA2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5) predominant period in Colorado, USA.

Methods: We did a propensity-matched, retrospective, observational cohort study of non-hospitalised adult patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 between March 26 and Aug 25, 2022, using records from a statewide health system in Colorado. We obtained data from the electronic health records of University of Colorado Health, the largest health system in Colorado, with 13 hospitals and 141 000 annual hospital admissions, and with numerous ambulatory sites and affiliated pharmacies around the state. Included patients had a positive SARS-CoV-2 test or nirmatrelvir-ritonavir medication order. Exclusion criteria were an order for or administration of other SARS-CoV-2 treatments within 10 days of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test, hospitalisation at the time of positive SARS-CoV-2 test, and positive SARS-CoV-2 test more than 10 days before a nirmatrelvir-ritonavir order. We propensity score matched patients treated with nirmatrelvir-ritonavir with untreated patients. The primary outcome was 28-day all-cause hospitalisation.

Findings: Among 28 167 patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 between March 26 and Aug 25, 2022, 21 493 met the study inclusion criteria. 9881 patients received treatment with nirmatrelvir-ritonavir and 11 612 were untreated. Nirmatrelvir-ritonavir treatment was associated with reduced 28-day all-cause hospitalisation compared with no antiviral treatment (61 [0·9%] of 7168 patients vs 135 [1·4%] of 9361 patients, adjusted odds ratio (OR) 0·45 [95% CI 0·33-0·62]; p<0·0001). Nirmatrelvir-ritonavir treatment was also associated with reduced 28-day all-cause mortality (two [<0·1%] of 7168 patients vs 15 [0·2%] of 9361 patients; adjusted OR 0·15 [95% CI 0·03-0·50]; p=0·0010). Using subsequent emergency department visits as a surrogate for clinically significant relapse, we observed a decrease after nirmatrelvir-ritonavir treatment (283 [3·9%] of 7168 patients vs 437 [4·7%] of 9361 patients; adjusted OR 0·74 [95% CI 0·63-0·87]; p=0·0002).

Interpretation: Real-world evidence reported during a BA.2, BA2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 omicron surge showed an association between nirmatrelvir-ritonavir treatment and reduced 28-day all-cause hospitalisation, all-cause mortality, and visits to the emergency department. With results that are among the first to suggest effectiveness of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir for non-hospitalised patients during an omicron period inclusive of BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, these data support nirmatrelvir-ritonavir as an ongoing first-line treatment for adults acutely infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Funding: US National Institutes of Health.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment
  • COVID-19*
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Outpatients*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ritonavir / therapeutic use
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Ritonavir
  • Antiviral Agents

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants