Closeup of open hand holding pill next to glass of water and pill box

Soon, many long-term care facilities will be able to order COVID-19 medications for their residents that will come directly from a federal stockpile through their long-term care pharmacy partners, according to industry advocates and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The federal Long-Term Care Partner Program aims to quickly get time-sensitive COVID-19 treatments to facilities when an outbreak occurs. The program is being rolled out in tandem with the public-facing Test to Treat Initiative that was unveiled by the White House this week, but it is a distinct program, according to an HHS spokesperson.

The initial aim of the program is to provide COVID-19 oral antiviral pills to facilities. It will use a separate supply of products that will not impact current allocations to the states and other partners, HHS reported in a recent call with stakeholders. 

Molnupiravir first in line

The first drug available to facilities via the new portal will be Merck’s molnupiravir, starting Monday, March 7, according to Arnold Clayman, VP-pharmacy practice and government affairs at the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. Pfizer’s Paxlovid likely will follow shortly afterward, he said. 

With a national ordering portal being re-established, ASCP is encouraging HHS to also reconsider making monoclonal antibodies available through the system as well, Clayman said. Prompt delivery of Evusheld, used for pre-exposure prophylaxis in immunocompromised patients, will be particularly crucial in the short term, he added. The recommended dose of this drug has been raised, and long-term care residents who recently received the lower dose will need an additional boost of the drug soon, he said.  

Push from LTC advocates helps re-establish portal

Long-term care industry advocates have urged HHS to re-establish a direct-order national portal ever since August of 2021, Clayman told McKnight’s Clinical Daily. That’s when the federal government switched from a direct ordering process for COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapies to a state and territories distribution system.

The state-coordinated system was meant to enable regional authorities to get the limited supply of these drugs to where they were most needed. But the switch instead resulted in lack of access for some long-term care operators, added Jim Lewis, director of policy and advocacy at ASCP.

The ASCP, along with other long-term care stakeholders, foresaw similar problems with access to COVID-19 oral antivirals and advocated strongly that those be distributed through federal channels as well, Lewis said.

“We were able to show that there was a need in long-term care that wasn’t being met,” Lewis told McKnight’s. “It did take us a little bit longer than we’d like … but we raised this issue and they heard us. Hopefully this will put us on the road to solving some of the problems.”

Both the Long-Term Care Partner Program and Test to Treat are key elements of the Biden administration’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan (NCPP), released Wednesday.