White House announces expansion of access to COVID antiviral pills

WASHINGTON — The Joe Biden administration is taking steps to expand the availability of Paxlovid, a life-saving COVID-19 antiviral treatment, in an effort to reassure doctors that there is ample supply available for people at high risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus.

Paxlovid, manufactured by Pfizer, was first approved in December. The supply of the drug was initially very limited, but as the number of COVID-19 cases across the country has declined and production has increased, it is now much larger. The White House is currently raising awareness of the pill and taking steps to make it easier to access.

The White House said on Tuesday it would step up its work with doctors, letting them know they shouldn’t think twice about prescribing pills to the right patients. He also announces that the drug will now be distributed directly to pharmacies, in addition to existing distribution channels run by the states. This is expected to increase the number of sites from 20,000 to over 30,000 next week and eventually 40,000 sites.

MORE: What you need to know about COVID antiviral pills

The Administration believes that the pharmacy channel, which was used to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccines over a year ago, will similarly make antiviral pills more accessible to people.

“The bottom line is we want to make this medicine available to all Americans,” Dr. Ashish Jha, White House coordinator for the COVID-19 response, told CNN on Tuesday.

Taking Paxlovid within five days of symptom onset has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by 90% in patients most likely to have severe disease. About 350 Americans currently die each day from the coronavirus, compared to more than 2,600 during the peak of the omicron wave earlier this year.

The US has ordered enough pills for 20 million people, which is estimated to last several more months. The Administration cautioned that subsequent shipments are subject to Congressional approval of additional funding for the COVID-19 response.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Pfizer for adults and children 12 years of age and older with a positive COVID-19 test and early symptoms who are at highest risk of severe outcomes. This includes the elderly and people with conditions such as obesity and heart disease, although the drug is not recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver disease.

The administration is also working to increase the number of treatment testing sites that provide people with COVID-19 with a one-stop shop where they can get tested for the virus, see a healthcare professional if they are positive, and get a prescription. for Paxlovid on the site. There are currently 2,200 locations across the country, and the administration is hoping support from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and drug companies will enable more sites to open in the coming weeks.

© 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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