Washington — The US government is expanding the availability of an antiviral pill used against covid-19, assuring doctors that there are enough supplies to give it to vulnerable people.
The pill, called Paxlovid and produced by Pfizer, was initially approved in December. Initially there were few reserves, but as cases decreased and production increased, it became more abundant. The White House is now trying to raise awareness of the treatment and expand its availability.
The government issued a message Tuesday to the country’s doctors, assuring them that they should not hesitate to prescribe the pill to those who need it.. It further announced that it will distribute the drug directly to pharmacies, apart from state-run distribution channels. It is estimated that this will increase the number of sales centers from 20,000 to more than 30,000 by next week, and eventually to more than 40,000.
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The administration is hopeful that direct distribution to pharmacies, which was proven successful in delivering the vaccines more than a year ago, will make antiviral pills more widely available.
“In short, we want to make this treatment available to all citizens,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, coordinator of the White House anti-COVID response, in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.
Trials have shown that Paxlovid, if taken within five days of symptom onset, reduces hospitalizations and deaths among patients susceptible to severe illness by up to 90%. About 350 Americans today die each day from the virus, compared to more than 2,600 in the worst outbreak of the omicron variant earlier this year.
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The United States has ordered a reserve sufficient for 20 million people, which should last several months. The administration has warned that to have more would require more funds from Congress.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Paxlovid for adults and children 12 years of age and older who have tested positive for COVID-19, have early symptoms, and are at high risk for severe illness. This includes older people with conditions such as obesity and heart failure, but not for patients with serious kidney or liver ailments.