Health

A new drug that could save lives in the fight against COVID has arrived

A new drug that could save lives in the fight against COVID has arrived
Written by admin_3fxxacau

Paxlovid, a drug that significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization or death for people at high risk of severe COVID-19, is now widely available after months of shortage. But many Long Islanders still don’t know it, and some are nervous about taking it.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared Paxlovid, made by Pfizer, in December. Clinical trials have shown the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by 88% in people 60 or older and in adults of any age with certain high-risk medical conditions. The prescription-only medicine must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms of COVID-19.

Until recently, the supply of drugs was limited.

Chevan Whitfield, who works in a blood lab, said she had never heard of Paxlovid. She thinks the drug should be advertised more.

WHAT THERE IS TO KNOW

  • Paxlovid, which targets people at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19, is now widely available after months of shortages, but doctors say many people don’t know about it or are reluctant to take it.
  • Clinical trials have shown Paxlovid to reduce the possibility of hospitalization or death by 88%. It must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Paxlovid is available in hundreds of Long Island Locations. To find one, go to covid-19-therapeutics-locator-dhhs.hub.arcgis.com

“If it’s really something to help attack the virus and cure people who have contracted the virus, I think people should be aware of that,” said Whitfeld, from Hempstead. She plans to tell high-risk family members about the drug.

Chevan Whitfield, of Hempstead, said the drug Paxlovid should be advertised more.
Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

88% How well the drug can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19

Howard Jacobson, owner of Rockville Center Pharmacy, said he had tried for months to get Paxlovid, but only received his first shipment of 20 treatments earlier this month.

“It was a long wait,” he said. “We continued to place orders.”

Jacobson said his pharmacy has since only received four prescriptions for the drug.

“Only a minority of people who could benefit from it are currently benefiting from it,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell Health and an infectious disease specialist who has regularly prescribed Paxlovid.

The drug is only for people deemed to be at high risk for severe COVID-19, but the FDA leaves judgment on prescribing to the healthcare provider. Those who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say are at higher risk include people 65 and older, those with certain medical conditions, many people from racial and ethnic minority groups, and people with disabilities.

Obstacles to rapid access

Farber said low-income people and other vulnerable communities are among those who may be least able to obtain or know about the drug.

The drug can’t be taken more than five days after symptoms start, but many people don’t have a doctor to turn to quickly, he said.

“We have to bend over backwards in areas where there are socio-economic issues that prevent people from having quick access,” he said.

David Nemiroff, president and CEO of Long Island FQHC, which operates six nonprofit health centers, said his employees are spreading the word about Paxlovid. But many people find out they have COVID-19 through home testing, so “they don’t come to the doctor,” he said.

Sometimes when people eligible for Paxlovid seek medical care for COVID-19, the five-day window is exceeded, he said.

Paxlovid must be taken within five days of when COVID-19...

Paxlovid should be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms of COVID-19.
Credit: Jeff Bachner

Most patients at Long Island’s FQHC were unaware of Paxlovid’s existence until a health care provider told them about it, Nemiroff said. Wider promotion of the drug, including in languages ​​other than English, is needed, he said.

A federal website shows more than a million Paxlovid treatments are available nationwide, a number that has increased dramatically in recent weeks as production ramped up and the federal government shipped them to states, community health centers and pharmacies.

There are several hundred locations on Long Island with the drug, according to federal data. Some are “test to treat” locations where prescriptions can be written on the spot. At least 669,000 treatments had been administered nationwide as of Tuesday, the data showed.

The federal government is paying for Paxlovid. Health care providers may charge for COVID-19 assessments or tests, but Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurers fully cover those costs, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said in a statement. E-mail.

“We are still encountering resistance”

Ann Huseman, 61, of Rockville Center, said she would avoid Paxlovid if she got COVID-19 because the drug is “too new.” She is not vaccinated, because she thinks the vaccine is too recent.

“I’ll wear a mask forever, I guess,” she said.

Nemiroff said that even though most high-risk patients in his organization have talked about Paxlovid, they want to take it: “We still encounter some resistance. When we say, ‘Do you want us to bring you the medicine?’ they say, ‘I don’t trust him.’ ”

Paxlovid is not for everyone, the FDA said. There are a number of other drugs that Paxlovid cannot be combined with, people with severe liver and kidney problems should not take it, and it is only for people 12 years and older weighing at least 88 pounds. There are several potential side effects, including altered taste, diarrhea, increased blood pressure, and muscle pain.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the drug Paxlovid to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death in people at high risk of severe COVID-19. Among those the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers to be at higher risk are:

  • People 65 and older.
  • People with certain diseases or other conditions that affect health. See a full list of conditions. The longer a person has these underlying medical conditions, the higher the risk.
  • The CDC also says, “Some people are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 because of where they live or work, or because they cannot get health care. This includes many people from racial and ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities. »

Paxlovid consists of two drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, which are taken together twice a day for five days.

Many independent pharmacies aren’t selling the drug because it was so hard to get at first due to the federal government’s preference for large drugstore chains, said Tom D’Angelo, president of the Pharmacists Society of the New York State and owner. Americare home infusion pharmacies in Garden City and Franklin Square Pharmacy.

The Health and Human Services spokesperson declined to confirm whether the chain pharmacies had the initial preference.

Spokespersons for CVS and Rite Aid said the drug is now available at nearly all of their locations nationwide. A Walgreens spokeswoman said it was in thousands of its locations.

Even when there was a shortage of Paxlovid, other options were available, and still are. One is monoclonal antibodies, which are antibodies produced in a laboratory. But they do require an injection or infusion from a medical professional.

Another is Merck’s molnupiravir, which the FDA cleared in December. But, said Dr. Neal Shipley, medical director of Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, “We made the decision early on not to use molnupiravir.”

That’s partly because of its much lower efficiency, he said. Molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by just 30%, well below the rate of Paxlovid, according to clinical trials.

With Paxlovid now widespread, more than 400 to 500 prescriptions a week have been written for him at Northwell-GoHealth over the past month, Shipley said. All patients who test positive for COVID-19 are asked about factors that might make them eligible, he said.

“The more of these drugs that get into the community, the better,” he said.

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