(Washington DC) – Pharmacists can prescribe leading COVID-19 drugs directly to patients under a new U.S. policy announced Wednesday to expand the use of Pfizer’s drugs. Paxlovid.
The Food and Drug Administration says pharmacists can start screening patients to see if they are eligible for Paxlovid and then prescribe the drug, which has been shown to work. to limit the worst effects of COVID-19. Previously, only a doctor could prescribe antiviral drugs.
This announcement comes as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise again, although they remain near their lowest levels since the coronavirus outbreak began in 2020. .
Biden administration officials have expressed disappointment that hundreds of Americans continue to die from COVID-19 daily, despite the availability of vaccines and treatments.
Regulators have been working for months to increase access to Paxlovid, open thousands of websites where patients who test positive can prescribe Paxlovid. The FDA change will make thousands more pharmacies eligible to quickly prescribe and dispense drugs that must be used early to be effective.
“Since Paxlovid must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms, authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid could expand access to timely treatment ,” the director of the FDA’s drug center, Patrizia Cavazzoni, said in a statement.
However, use may be restricted by paperwork requirements. Patients must bring their recent health records – including blood tests – and a list of their current medications so the pharmacist can check on their health and potential interactions. extreme with Paxlovid. As an alternative, the pharmacist may consult the patient’s physician.
Paxlovid is for people with COVID-19 who are more likely to become seriously ill. That includes older adults and people with other health problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes that make them more vulnerable. It is not recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems. A course of treatment is three tablets twice a day for five days.
FDA authorized Paxlovid last December for ages 12 and older based on results showing it reduces hospitalizations and deaths by nearly 90% in unvaccinated patients who are more likely to develop severe illness. The drug has shown less dramatic results in vaccinated patients, and some doctors have reported cases of COVID-19 symptoms returning after treatment with drugs.
Expanding the trial program to include pharmacists can add thousands of additional options for patients. The two largest US drugstore chains – CVS Health and Walgreens – combined have about 19,000 locations.
CVS Health has provided COVID-19 care at 1,100 clinic locations inside pharmacies.
There are also nearly 19,400 independent pharmacies that are not affiliated with a major chain, according to the National Association of Community Pharmacists.
Pharmacist Michele Belcher said ahead of the announcement that she hopes to be able to test clients for COVID-19 and provide oral medication because her community is experiencing a shortage of primary care doctors, small Grants Pass city, southwest Oregon.
Belcher said she worries that some people may find it difficult to see a doctor for a prescription in the limited time it takes to start taking a pill.
Belcher, the owner of the independent Grants Pass Pharmacy, said she used to test and treat COVID-19 using injectable drugs that are no longer effective.
Her pharmacy regularly checks for potential harmful interactions with other medications a patient may be taking, she said.
“Pharmacists are experts in medicine,” she said. “It’s something we do every day, all day, making sure there aren’t any interactions with any drugs.”
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