WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden and his administration want Americans and their doctors to know that the country has plenty of life-saving COVID-19 antiviral therapy Paxlovid and that it should no longer be rationed.
First approved in December, the range of Pfizer cures was initially very limited, but as COVID-19 cases across the country have declined and production has increased, it is now far more abundant. The White House is now moving to raise awareness of the pill and take steps to make it easier to access.
When administered within five days of the onset of symptoms, Paxlovid has been shown to cause approximately 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to develop serious illness. About 350 Americans now die every day from coronavirus, down from more than 2,600 below the height of the omicron wave earlier this year.
A senior administration official said the use of the antiviral cure has “more than doubled” over the past few weeks, but the administration has more supplies ready that could save lives and prevent serious illness if prescribed in a timely manner.
The United States has ordered enough supplies of the pills for 20 million people, which are estimated to last for several more months. The administration has warned that subsequent deliveries are dependent on Congress approving additional COVID-19 response funding.
Biden officials plan to highlight the relative abundance of the drug next week, and government officials will intensify their outreach to patients and providers.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s drug for adults and children aged 12 and older with a positive COVID-19 test and early symptoms, which face the highest risk of serious outcomes. It includes the elderly and those with conditions such as obesity and heart disease, although the drug is not recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems.
Efforts include expanding the availability of the pills by offering a direct to the pharmacy ordering route for the drug. Currently, the federal government relies on states to determine where the supply goes, and about 20,000 sites carry the pill, including 2,000 so-called “test to treat” sites that can provide treatment immediately after a positive test result.
The administration believes that the pharmacy channel, which it used to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccines more than a year ago, will similarly make the antiviral pills more accessible to people.
The news of the pharmacy expansion was first reported by Bloomberg.