(Washington D.C.) — President Joe Biden’s administration is taking steps to expand availability of the life-saving COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, as it seeks to reassure doctors that there is ample supply for people at high risk of severe illness or death from the virus.
Paxlovid (a drug manufactured by Pfizer) was approved for the first time in December. The initial supply of this regimen was very small. However, as COVID-19 patients across the nation have decreased and manufacturing has increased, it is much more common. The White House has begun to increase awareness about the Pill and is taking steps to make it more accessible.
The White House said Tuesday it is stepping up outreach to doctors, letting them know they shouldn’t think twice about prescribing the pill to eligible patients. In addition to the existing state distribution channels, it announced that the drug will be directly distributed to pharmacies. It is anticipated that this will boost the number sites to between 20,000 and more than 35,000 next week. Eventually, it could reach 40,000.
Administration believes that the drugstore channel which was used more than one year ago to make COVID-19 vaccines available will be used again to provide antiviral medication access to more people.
“The bottom line is that we want to make this therapeutic available to all Americans,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said Tuesday on CNN.
Paxlovid can be administered in just five days from the onset of symptoms. It has been shown to reduce hospitalizations by 90% and death rates among severe cases. The number of Americans who are dying from coronavirus is now around 350, compared to more than 2,600 at the peak of Omicron waves earlier in the year.
U.S. authorities have ordered sufficient pills to supply 20 million Americans, with the remaining stock expected to last several months. According to the administration, future deliveries will depend on Congress authorizing additional COVID-19 funding.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s drug for adults and children age 12 or older with a positive COVID-19 test and early symptoms who face the highest risk of severe outcomes. This includes people over 65 and with heart diseases and other conditions, but the drug is not recommended to patients suffering from severe liver or kidney problems.
The administration is also working to expand the number of test-to-treat sites that provide a one-stop shop for those with COVID-19 to get tested for the virus, consult with a medical professional if they’re positive and fill a prescription for Paxlovid on site. There are 2200 locations in total. In the near future, more will be available thanks to support from the Department of Health and Human Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
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