Hundreds of people are still dying from Covid every day. Why is Paxlovid sitting on the shelf?

More than 500 people are still dying from Covid-19 every day in the United States, but ample supplies of a highly effective antiviral are sitting on store shelves, unused.

The drug, the antiviral pill from Pfizer Paxlovid, is Authorised for emergency use for people at high risk in December. Clinical trials have shown that a 5-day course of treatment reduces patients’ risk of hospitalization and death by 89%.

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The initial supply of the drug was very limited, with limited dosage allotted to the states each week. As the omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads, Doctor and patient scramble to find the pills.

Now, four months later, supplies Potentially life-saving drugs quick improvement in the US, but on the other hand, doctors don’t seem to be prescribing much.

There’s a lot of Paxlovid to go around, but “it’s being underutilized,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Report.”

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Experts say getting the drug to the public is crucial at this point in the pandemic.

The B.2 sub-variable omicron is leading to an increase Covid-19 infections in the Northeast, and experts say hospitalizations and deaths could soon follow.

Paxlovid works by stopping the virus from replicating inside human cells before people get very sick. It needs to do it early to be effective – within five days of the onset of symptoms.

People, especially immunocompromised people who may not have a strong immune response to the Covid vaccine, have several other treatment options; sub-omicrons rendered all but one US-approved monoclonal antibody drug ineffective.

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical officer, said antiretroviral drugs are a “very valuable tool.” But on the drugstore shelves in her state, she said, thousands of doses of Paxlovid and another antiviral, from Merck, remain unused.

Bagdasarian said some doctors may hesitate to prescribe Paxlovid because it is a relatively new drug and they may not feel comfortable giving it to patients.

She also noted the concerns of doctors about drug-drug interactions; The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend Paxlovid for people with severe liver or kidney disease.

Ryan Maves, an infectious disease and critical care physician at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, said other doctors may want to prescribe it but can’t because of FDA restrictions on its use. medicine.

Who is eligible to receive Covid antiviral drugs?

The FDA has approved the drug for people under the age of 12 who are at risk of severe illness and death from Covid.

“What would you do with someone with, say, mild asthma, who might be a little more severe than they need to be?” he asks. “You might want to give them medication,” but they don’t qualify.

Another reason, Maves says, can be summed up in one word: perception.

“I think part of the challenge is that too soon there has been so little of such a supply, and getting to grips with it is a real challenge,” he said. “But those caring for high-risk patients may not know that it’s a lot easier now.”

Bagdasarian said there has been a “slight increase” in prescriptions in recent weeks in Michigan as the state has worked to make it available to providers.

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Dr Paul Sax of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital said it was “disappointing” that the treatment was not widely used. An antiviral pill that can be taken at home to treat Covid has been what doctors wanted from the start of the pandemic, and now it’s available without a prescription.

Sax is pushing US officials to allow people in low-risk groups to use the drug.

He may get his wish: During a presentation Monday at the College of Health Sciences for Unified Service in Bethesda, Maryland, Fauci hinted that officials are looking at expanding the job. use drugs for more groups.

Sax also said the poor rollout could be because testing rates have dropped nationally and because not everyone wants to pay for at-home testing.

The Biden administration’s “Trial for Treatment” program, announced last month, is supposed to raise awareness and make it easier to test and get drugs in pharmacies. But the initiative, Maves said, is still a new initiative, so doctors may have to be more aggressive about getting people at high risk tested and then treated with drugs. antiviral.

Fauci said on the “Andrea Mitchell Report” that federal and state health officials can do more.

“What we need to do better is make practicing physicians and outside health care providers understand and recognize that this is an available intervention,” he said.

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