Health experts discuss Paxlovid treatment
The pill was authorized for emergency use by the FDA in December to prevent severe COVID-19 cases for those at high risk
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Inside Buford Road Pharmacy, Paul McClimon is busy filling prescriptions for patients in the Richmond area, including Paxlovid. In the last couple of months, McClimon said the pharmacy saw a rise in Paxlovid prescriptions to fill.
“I have noticed there’s been higher uptick, especially May and June that might’ve been coinciding when people were just aware that it was available,” McClimon said.
In December, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for Paxlovid, which became the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19, which is meant to be taken within the first five days of symptoms for those at high risk of severe illness from the virus.
This medicine has been in the spotlight as part of President Joe Biden’s treatment since his COVID-19 diagnosis.
Since the pill was authorized by the FDA several months ago, Dr. Alexis Page with the Virginia Department of Health said the drug was “slow to take off in the beginning” but has since changed.
“Paxlovid is being dispensed at higher rates than initially and again, the availability has greatly increased,” Dr. Page told NBC12.
Across the state, Dr. Page said there are 1,163 pharmacies with Paxlovid.
“They’re not at every chain pharmacy. They’re not in every pharmacy in the state, but we do have Paxlovid available in the majority of pharmacies in the state,” she said.
Dr. Page emphasized this treatment is meant for those at higher risk of developing severe illness of the virus to prevent hospitalization and death.
“In order to be eligible, you have to have risk factors for progressing to severe disease,” she said. “You have to have risk factors for hospitalization or death from severe COVID-19 illness.”
Generally, Dr. Page said physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants can prescribe the pill. In July, the FDA also authorized state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid with certain limitations and medical history.
As Paxlovid is put on the shelves, Dr. Page encourages patients to consult with their clinicians about their eligibility and the impact this medication could have if they have a medical history.
“It does need to be dose suggested based on the patient’s kidney function and it does have medication interactions,” Dr. Page said. “We’ve done a lot of work to educate our healthcare providers in Virginia to help them understand and walk them through what steps need to be taken to prescribe appropriately.”
The CDC also reports what is being called “COVID Rebound” in some people after completing Paxlovid treatment. According to the CDC, COVID rebound has been reported between two to eight days after initial recovery.
Despite this, the CDC still encourages Paxlovid as an early-stage treatment for mild to moderate COVID-19 among those at higher risk of developing severe illness from the virus.
The Virginia Department of Health told NBC12 they currently don’t track rebound cases. VDH encourages healthcare providers to report cases of COVID-19 rebound after taking Paxlovid to Pfizer using the Pfizer Safety Reporting tool and to FDA MedWatch.
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