‘Test to treat’: UCSF doctor explains President Biden’s new COVID-19 initiative promising ‘on-the-spot’ treatment at pharmacies

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Joe Biden unveiled plans to move America into a new stage of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the key elements of the plan is “test to treat”.

“We’re launching the ‘test to treat’ initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy and if they test positive, they can get antiviral pills there at no cost,” the president said.

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Now the question is, how exactly will this work?

UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong joined ABC7 News in our “Getting Answers” program to explain.

Dr Chin-Hong says “the devil is in the details”.

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Some of those details are still being worked out, but what we do know, according to Dr Chin-Hong, is that “on-the-spot” treatment will be in the form of pills, such as Paxlovid.

“Paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 89% in those most at risk,” Dr. Chin-Hong explained.

“You test on the spot. You get the pills for five days, three pills twice a day,” he said.

We asked if this would be done in all pharmacies.

“So far they’ve named some pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid. We don’t know if all pharmacies will have this capability,” he said.

That’s because “it takes some choreography,” Chin-Hong said.

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“You can’t just have pills in the pharmacy supply and have a testing program. You have to coordinate it because, for example, you have to educate the patient, you have to figure out what drugs the patient is taking… So it’s not as easy as it looks.”

You can watch the full 10-minute interview for more, in the video at the top of this article.

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