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US allows pharmacists to prescribe Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill

Pharmacists can prescribe the leading COVID-19 pill directly to patients under a new US policy announced Wednesday that aims to expand the use of Pfizer’s drug Paxlovid. The Food and Drug Administration said pharmacists can begin screening patients to see if they are eligible for Paxlovid and then prescribe the drug, which has been shown to limit the worst effects of COVID-19. In the past, only doctors could prescribe the antiviral drug. The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising again, although they remain near their lowest levels since the coronavirus outbreak began in 2020. Biden administration officials have expressed dismay that several hundreds of Americans continue to die daily from COVID-19, despite the availability of vaccines and treatments. Administration officials have been working for months to increase access to Paxlovid, opening thousands of websites where patients who test positive can fill a prescription for Paxlovid. The FDA’s change will make thousands more pharmacies eligible to quickly prescribe and dispense the pill, which must be used promptly to be effective. “Because Paxlovid must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms, authorizing state pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid could expand access to early treatment,” said FDA drug center director Patrizia Cavazzoni. However, the use may be limited by paperwork requirements.Patients are expected to bring their recent health records — including blood tests — and a list of their current medications so pharmacists can check for health conditions and medications that may interact negatively with Paxlovid. Alternatively, pharmacists can consult with the patient’s doctor. Paxlovid is for people with COVID-19 who are more likely to get seriously ill. This includes older people and people with other health issues such as heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes which make them more vulnerable Not recommended for sufferers with severe kidney or liver problems. A course of treatment is three pills twice a day for five days. The FDA approved Paxlovid last December for ages 12 and older, based on results showing it reduced hospitalizations and deaths by nearly 90 percent among unvaccinated patients who were most likely to develop severe illness. The drug has shown less impressive results in patients who already have vaccine protection, and some doctors have reported cases of COVID-19 symptoms returning after treatment with the drug. Expanding the trial-in-treatment program to include pharmacists could add thousands of additional options for patients. The two largest drugstore chains in the US — CVS Health and Walgreens — operate about 19,000 locations combined. CVS Health is already providing COVID-19 care at 1,100 pharmacy clinic locations. There are also nearly 19,400 independent pharmacies that are not affiliated with a large chain, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association. Pharmacist Michele Belcher said before the announcement that she hoped to be able to test customers for COVID-19 and offer the pill because there is a shortage of primary care doctors in her community, the small, southwestern Oregon town of Grants Pass. Belcher said she is concerned that some people may have trouble getting a doctor’s appointment for a prescription during the narrow window to start the pill. Belcher, owner of the independent Grants Pass Pharmacy, said she used to test and treat for COVID-19 using injectable drugs that are no longer as effective. Her pharmacy regularly checks for potential harmful interactions with other medications a patient may be taking, she said. “Pharmacists are the medicine experts,” he said. “That’s something we do every day, all day, make sure there are no drug interactions.”___Murphy said from Indianapolis. The Associated Press Health and Science Section is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Division. AP is solely responsible for all content.

Pharmacists can prescribe the leading COVID-19 pill directly to patients under a new US policy announced on Wednesday that aims to expand the use of Pfizer’s drug Paxlovid.

The Food and Drug Administration said pharmacists can begin screening patients to see if they are eligible for Paxlovid and then prescribe the drug, which has been shown to limit the worst effects of COVID-19. Previously only doctors could prescribe the antiviral drug.

The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising again, although they remain near their lowest levels since the start of the coronavirus epidemic in 2020.

Officials in the Biden administration have expressed frustration that several hundred Americans continue to die from COVID-19 every day, despite the availability of vaccines and treatments.

Administration officials have been working for months to increase access to Paxlovid, opening thousands of websites where patients who test positive can fill a prescription for Paxlovid. The FDA’s change will make thousands more pharmacies eligible to quickly prescribe and dispense the pill, which must be used early to be effective.

“Given that 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,” said FDA Drug Center Director Patrizia Cavazzoni. in a statement.

However, use could be limited by paperwork requirements. Patients are expected to bring their recent health records — including blood tests — and a list of their current medications so pharmacists can check for health conditions and medications that may interact negatively with Paxlovid. Alternatively, pharmacists can consult the patient’s doctor.

Paxlovid is for people with COVID-19 who are more likely to get seriously ill. This includes the elderly and those with other health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes that make them more vulnerable. Not recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems. A course of treatment is three pills twice a day for five days.

The FDA approved Paxlovid last December for ages 12 and older based on results that showed it reduced hospitalizations and deaths by nearly 90 percent among unvaccinated patients who were more likely to develop severe illness. The drug has shown less impressive results in patients who already have vaccine protection, and some doctors have reported cases of COVID-19 symptoms returning after treatment with the drug.

Expanding the trial-in-treatment program to include pharmacists could add thousands of additional options for patients. The two largest drugstore chains in the U.S. — CVS Health and Walgreens — operate about 19,000 locations combined.

CVS Health is already providing COVID-19 care at 1,100 pharmacy clinic locations.

There are also nearly 19,400 independent pharmacies that are not affiliated with a large chain, according to the National Association of Community Pharmacists.

Pharmacist Michele Belcher said before the announcement that she hoped to be able to test customers for COVID-19 and offer the pill because there is a shortage of primary care doctors in her community, the small, southwestern Oregon town of Grants Pass.

Belcher said she worries that some people may struggle to make an appointment with a doctor for a prescription during the narrow window to start the pill.

Belcher, owner of the independent Grants Pass Pharmacy, said she used to test and treat for COVID-19 using injectable drugs that are no longer as effective.

Her pharmacy regularly checks for potential harmful interactions with other medications a patient may be taking, she said.

“Pharmacists are the medicine experts,” he said. “This is something we do every day, all day, make sure there are no drug interactions.”

___

Murphy reported from Indianapolis.

The Associated Press Health and Science Section is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Division. AP is solely responsible for all content.

US allows pharmacists to prescribe Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill Source link US allows pharmacists to prescribe Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill

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