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White House expands availability of COVID antiviral treatment amid plentiful supply

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s administration is taking steps to expand the availability of the life-saving COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid as it seeks to reassure doctors that there is an adequate supply for people with high risk of serious illness or death from the virus.

Paxlovid, produced by Pfizer, was first approved in December. The diet’s supply was initially very limited, but as COVID-19 cases across the country have declined and manufacturing has increased, it is now much more plentiful. The White House is now working to raise awareness of the pill and take steps to make it easier to access.

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The White House said Tuesday it was stepping up outreach to doctors, letting them know they shouldn’t hesitate to prescribe the pill to eligible patients. It also announces that the drug will now be distributed directly to pharmacies, in addition to existing state-run distribution channels. This should increase the number of sites from 20,000 to over 30,000 next week and possibly 40,000 locations.

The administration believes the pharmacy channel, which it used to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccines more than a year ago, will also make antiviral pills more accessible to people.

“The bottom line is that we want to make this therapy available to all Americans,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said on CNN on Tuesday.

Paxlovid, when given within five days of the onset of symptoms, has been shown to result in an approximately 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths in patients most at risk of serious illness. About 350 Americans now die from the coronavirus every day, up from more than 2,600 at the height of the omicron wave earlier this year.

The United States has ordered enough pills for 20 million people, which is expected to last several more months. The administration has warned that further deliveries are dependent on Congressional approval of additional funding for the COVID-19 response.

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized Pfizer’s drug for adults and children 12 or older with a positive COVID-19 test and early symptoms who face the highest risk of serious outcomes. This includes the elderly and those with obesity and heart disease, although the drug is not recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems.

The administration is also working to increase the number of test-to-treat sites that provide one-stop shopping for people with COVID-19 to get tested for the virus, see a medical professional if they test positive, and fill a prescription for Paxlovid on the spot. There are currently 2,200 locations nationwide, and the administration hopes that support from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and pharmacy companies will see more sites expand. put online in the coming weeks.


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