WASHINGTON (AP) — Pharmacists can prescribe the key COVID-19 pill directly to patients under a new U.S. guideline announced Wednesday that aims to expand use of Pfizer’s drug Paxlovid.
The Food and Drug Administration said pharmacists could start screening patients to see if they’re eligible for Paxlovid and then prescribe the drug that’s been shown to prevent the worst effects of COVID-19. has gone. Previously, only doctors could prescribe antiviral drugs.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise again, despite being near the lowest levels since the coronavirus outbreak began in 2020.
Biden administration officials have expressed dismay that despite the availability of vaccines and treatments, several hundred Americans are dying from COVID-19 every day.
Administration officials have been working for months to expand access to Paxlovid and have opened thousands of websites where patients who test positive can fill out a prescription for Paxlovid. The FDA change will allow thousands more pharmacies to quickly prescribe and distribute the pill, which needs to be used quickly to be effective.
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Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Drug Center, said in a statement, “Because Paxlovid must be taken within five days of symptom onset, authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid may expand access to treatment in a timely manner.” can.”
However, access may be restricted due to bureaucratic requirements. Patients are expected to bring their current medical records — including blood tests — and a list of their current medications so pharmacists can review health conditions and medications that may negatively interact with Paxclovid. Alternatively, pharmacists can consult the patient’s doctor.
Paxlovid is for people with COVID-19 who are more likely to become seriously ill. This includes the elderly and those with other health conditions that make them more vulnerable, such as heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes. It is not recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems. A course of treatment consists of three tablets twice a day for five days.
The FDA approved Paxlovid last December for people ages 12 and older, the results of which showed that it reduced hospitalizations and deaths by nearly 90 percent in patients most likely to develop serious illness. about 90 percent less. The drug has shown less impressive results in patients who are already vaccinated, and some doctors have reported cases of COVID-19 symptoms returning after treatment with the drug.
Extending the test-to-treatment program to pharmacists could add thousands of additional options for patients. The two largest US drugstore chains – CVS Health and Walgreens – together operate about 19,000 stores.
CVS Health is already providing COVID-19 care at 1,100 drugstore clinic locations.
According to the National Community Pharmacists Association, there are approximately 19,400 independent pharmacies that are not affiliated with a major chain.
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Pharmacist Michelle Belcher said before the announcement that she hopes to offer the pill and test customers for COVID-19 because of a shortage of family doctors in her community, the small town of Grant Near in southwest Oregon.
Belcher said he’s concerned that some people may find it difficult to get an appointment with a prescription doctor during the tight window to start the pill.
Belcher, owner of the independent Grant Pass Pharmacy, said she used to test and treat COVID-19 with injectable drugs that are no longer as effective.
She said her pharmacy regularly checks for potentially harmful drug interactions that a patient may be taking.
“Pharmacists are pharmaceutical experts,” she said. “We do that every day, all day, to make sure there are no drug interactions.”
Murphy reported from Indianapolis.
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