Close Up Of Pills Pouring Out Of A Prescription Medication Bottle; Image credit: Getty Images

In a campaign this week to raise the profile of effective COVID-19 drugs, the White House is encouraging physicians to consider prescribing the oral antiviral Paxlovid now that it is no longer in short supply.

As part of a weeklong campaign to highlight these treatments, COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha, M.D., said the White House is “doubling down” on its outreach to prescribers.

Too many physicians still have the mindset that Paxlovid is not widely available and should be restricted to the highest-risk patients, he said. But stocks of the drug are now up, as planned, and it should be top of mind for a variety of at-risk patients, Jha said in a Tuesday briefing.

“Anybody who is eligible, anybody who’s high risk, should be getting Paxlovid … as long as they meet the clinical criteria,” he said. 

President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, M.D., echoed that message in an interview with PBS. 

“We are underutilizing what is a highly effective therapy,” he said, referring to clinical trial evidence. Paxlovid, which is taken over a course of days, was shown to have 90% efficacy against severe COVID-19 including hospitalization when given within five days of initial symptoms.

Faster access

Paxlovid, along with Merck’s oral antiviral drug molnupiravir, must be taken within days of COVID-19 symptom onset and so must be quickly accessed when needed. In an effort to make the treatments more readily available, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in March said that it will allow facilities to order oral antivirals directly from a federal stockpile through their long-term care pharmacy partners.

Overall federal access will be opening up for more pharmacies of the coming weeks, Jha said in the briefing. He expects the number of sites carrying Paxlovid to expand from the current 20,000 sites to about 40,000 sites in “the next couple of weeks.”

“Paxlovid will be widely available everywhere in America. That’s going to help a lot,” he said.

The United States is in a transitional phase of the pandemic, Fauci told PBS. Even with a likely undercount of infected Americans, many have residual immunity from either past infection or immunization, he said. 

But cases have climbed in a majority of states and territories during the past two weeks, with the steepest upticks in the Northeast and Midwest states, and the need for effective therapeutic options remains.

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