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Alberta family doctors will soon prescribe Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment. Nation World News

Paxlovid, In an effort to improve access to COVID-19 treatment, the Government of Alberta is taking the prescribed process into the hands of family physicians.

The province has a stockpile of 25,000 treatment courses of the antiviral drug – available to very specific groups of high-risk patients – and has treated only 1,300 patients so far.

Eligible patients have to go through a complex centralized system to receive Paxlovid, and there are concerns that people are not accessing it quickly enough because a positive laboratory test is needed and within five days of symptom onset. Treatment should be given within.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Jason Kopping confirmed there are plans to make the drug available through community-based physicians. He said an official announcement is imminent.

“Work is underway to shift the prescribing process to primary care,” he said during a news conference.

“Family physicians are getting the tools and education to make sure they are comfortable prescribing this drug, and I hope to announce soon that prescribing will be completely transferred to them.”

family doctor preparing

Family doctors are already gearing up for this new responsibility.

“We want to enable family physicians to be comfortable with testing as well,” said Dr. Ernst Gravenstein, co-chair of the provincial primary care COVID-19 task force. He is one of the physicians who led an information session this week for nearly 300 doctors presented by the Alberta Medical Association.

According to Gravenstein, some family doctors have already started prescribing Paxlovid, but the overall transition will be gradual.

Alberta family doctors will soon prescribe Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment. Nation World News
Dr. Ernst Gravenstein this week led a webinar for nearly 300 Alberta family doctors to help them navigate the complex process of prescribing PaxLovid. (CBC)

“We’re trying to improve access for patients,” he said. “We know that the window of eligibility is very short – within five days of symptom onset – and by taking it to primary care offices, this should help improve outcomes as well.”

Under the current system, people need to book lab tests. If the results come back positive, they should call the dedicated Health Link phone line (1-844-343-0971) and leave a message.

Alberta Health said employees usually call back within 24 hours to assess eligibility. If patients qualify, they are referred to a physician within the outpatient treatment program for a prescription.

According to Gravenstein, the new process will allow the confirmation of a COVID-19 infection through rapid tests.

“We recognize that access to PCR testing is challenging as well as obtaining its results. Having access to rapid antigen testing as well as being able to obtain and quickly determine results on the spot will certainly help in accessibility. “

As PaxLovid is a new treatment, clinicians are being provided with key resources, including tools to identify high-risk patients and drug interactions.

“We believe we are at a crossroads, and we have to start moving into a new normal. And that new normal will probably include testing in community offices, determining whatever antivirals are available. And we’re about to Very excited,” Gravenstein said.

Alberta Health did not respond to Nation World News’ questions before publication about the timeline, changes to testing and how many physicians are already prescribing the treatment.

“Alberta recently received additional courses of treatment, and now that supply has increased, we are working toward making it more widely available by prescription, like other drugs,” said spokeswoman Lisa Glover. said in a statement emailed to Nation World News.

“We hope to be able to announce the changes soon.”

Experts caution, however, that the best defense against COVID-19 is still vaccination, and they continue to urge Albertans to make every dose available.

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