Pharmacists Can Now Prescribe Pfizer’s Paxlovid for COVID-19

(Washington D.C.) — Pharmacists can prescribe the leading COVID-19 pill directly to patients under a new U.S. policy announced Wednesday that’s intended to expand use of Pfizer’s drug Paxlovid.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, pharmacists will be able to screen patients and determine if they qualify for Paxlovid. Once approved, the pharmacist can then start prescribing the drug. This medication has been proven to reduce the most severe effects of COVID-19. The antiviral drug was previously only available to physicians.

This announcement is made at a time when COVID-19 deaths, cases and hospitalizations are on the rise again. However, they still remain close to their lowest level since 2020, when coronavirus was first discovered.

Biden officials express frustration at the number of Americans still dying from COVID-19 every day, despite having access to vaccines and treatment.

Learn More: Here’s What Scientists Know About Paxlovid Rebound

Administrators have worked for many months to make Paxlovid more accessible. This has resulted in thousands of Paxlovid prescriptions being filled at thousands of locations. FDA has made it possible for thousands more pharmacies to prescribe and dispense the medication quickly. However, this must be done early in order to make sure that the FDA’s changes are effective.

“Since Paxlovid must be taken within five days after symptoms begin, authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid could expand access to timely treatment,” FDA drug center director Patrizia Cavazzoni, said in a statement.

However, paperwork may limit your ability to use the product. Patients are expected to bring their recent health records— including blood tests — and a list of their current medications so pharmacists can check for health conditions and medications that can negatively interact with Paxlovid. As an alternative, pharmacists can consult with the patient’s doctor.

Paxlovid can be used to treat COVID-19. It isn’t recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems. Three pills two times daily for five days is the recommended dosage.

Paxlovid was approved by the FDA last December. It is recommended for children aged 12 and above. The FDA approved Paxlovid based upon results that showed it decreased hospitalizations, deaths and other complications in nearly 90% of patients not currently vaccinated. Patients who have already received vaccine protection have seen less dramatic results. Some doctors have also reported COVID-19 symptoms returning following treatment.

Patients could have thousands more choices if they are able to expand the scope of the Test-to-Treat program and include pharmacists. The two biggest U.S. drugstore chains — CVS Health and Walgreens — run around 19,000 locations combined.

CVS Health provides COVID-19 treatment at over 1,100 drugstore locations.

The National Community Pharmacists Association estimates that there are almost 19,400 independent pharmacies, many of which aren’t tied to big chains.

Michele Belcher, Pharmacist, said that prior to the announcement she had hoped to be in a position to offer the Pill to customers who have COVID-19. This was because Grants Pass is small and has fewer primary care physicians than other cities in Oregon.

Belcher said she worries that some people may have a hard time getting a doctor’s appointment for a prescription during the narrow window to start the pill.

Belcher, the owner of Grants Pass Pharmacy independent, stated that she once used injectable drugs to treat COVID-19.

According to her, the pharmacy regularly checks for possible interactions between drugs that patients may have been taking.

“Pharmacists are the drug experts,” she said. “That’s something we do every day, all day, make sure there are no interactions with any medications.”

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