U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration announced plans on Tuesday to nearly double the number of pharmacies that carry antiviral pills to combat covid-19 as many consumers report difficulty finding a doctor to prescribe the medication, or a pharmacy that carries it, when they get sick. Dozens have struggled to get Paxlovid pill amid the latest wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.2 Paxlovid was expected to be a major tool in the battle against COVID after it reduced hospitalizations or deaths in high-risk patients by around 90% in a clinical trial. Beginning from this week pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy program for distributing antiviral treatments will be able to order the free treatments directly from the U.S. government.
Currently, the pharmacies were dependent on stables to obtain the pills. The government sends the treatments to select pharmacies, as well as directly to states and community centers. Under the current system, the treatments area available in around 20,000 locations.
The administration is also taking additional steps to boost availability for the drug, a pill from Pfizer called Paxlovid, including an effort to stand up more “test-to-treat” programs in pharmacies and clinics, where many people will be able to walk out with a five-day regimen of pills after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Thousands of people still die from COVID-19 every week, even as global infections are far off their highest. And there are only a few proven antiviral treatments, of which Paxlovid is the most attractive. The others are Merck & Co's (MRK.N) far less effective rival pill molnupiravir, and Gilead Sciences' (GILD.O) intravenous remdesivir.
But even amid a recent rise in infections, Paxlovid supply far outstripped demand in the United States, UK, Japan, and South Korea, data from health ministries and Reuters interviews with doctors and pharmacists found.