WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – President Joe Biden’s administration is taking steps to expand the availability of the life-saving COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, trying to reassure doctors who are at high risk of serious illness or death from the virus. There is enough supply for the people.
Paxlovid, manufactured by Pfizer, was first approved in December. Food supplies were initially very limited, but nationwide COVID-19 cases have declined and manufacturing has increased. The White House is now taking steps to raise awareness of the pill and make it easier.
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The White House said on Tuesday it was expanding access to doctors, telling them not to think twice about giving the pill to eligible patients. Also, in addition to the existing distribution channels run by the states, the medicine will now be distributed directly to the pharmacies. This is expected to increase the number of sites from 20,000 to more than 30,000 and eventually to 40,000 locations over the next week.
The administration used the pharmacy channel to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccines more than a year ago.
“Paxlovid will be widely available everywhere in the US,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 response coordinator. Medicines like this and antivirals are “key essential tools that we need to get through the rest of this pandemic,” he said.
Paxlovid, when administered within five days after symptoms appear, has been proven to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by approximately 90% in patients prone to severe disease. About 300 Americans are now dying from the coronavirus, compared to more than 2,600 during the height of the Omicron wave earlier this year.
The US has ordered a sufficient supply of pills for 20 million people, which is expected to last several more months. The administration has warned that further deliveries are up to Congress approving additional COVID-19 response funding.
“We need to help American physicians and nurse practitioners and others who understand that we now have a lot available and whoever is eligible, who is at high risk, should get Paxlovid,” Jha said.
He also encouraged those who test positive to contact their doctors to determine their eligibility for a drug that prevents positive results.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s drug for adults and children 12 years of age and older with a positive COVID-19 test and early symptoms, who face the highest risk of serious consequences. This includes older people and people with conditions such as obesity and heart disease, although the drug is not recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems.
The administration is also working to expand the number of test-to-treatment sites, which provide a one-stop shop for people with COVID-19 to test for the virus, consult a medical professional if they test positive. And fill out a recipe for Paxlovid on the site. There are currently 2,200 locations nationwide, and the administration expects support from the Department of Health and Human Services, Federal Emergency
Management agencies and pharmacy companies will enable more sites to come online in the coming weeks.