White House Announces Plan to Increase COVID-19 Antiviral Availability, Build Provider, Patient Awareness

As many as 40 000 pharmacies will soon have supplies of Paxlovid while the administration ramps up communications to clinicians and patients on access and use.

In response to reports that patients have had difficulty gaining access to the Pfizer COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, the Biden administration on Tuesday announced steps to make the drug more widely available and to improve awareness of the oral treatment and its optimal use among both health care professionals and US citizens.

Paxlovid was shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death by approximately 90%. The US Food and Drug Administration authorized the pill in December 2021, but the rollout has been slow.

In the White House fact sheet released Tuesday, the administration announced it had purchased 20 million doses of the Pfizer drug and outlined the latest steps the government is taking to distribute medications for treating COVID and communicate more widely about their availability. These include:

  • Making it easier for pharmacies to obtain oral antiviral treatments. It will do this by allowing pharmacies that are partners in the federal antiviral pharmacy program to order free oral antiviral treatments directly from the federal government. Doing so will increase the number of locations where antivirals are available from 20 000 to 30 000, according to the statement. Additional efforts through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the statement says, could increase that number to 40 000 over the coming weeks.
  • Working with states and other jurisdictions to increase the number of Test-to-Treat sites. There are currently2200 Test-to-Treat sites in US pharmacies and other clinical settings. The federally supported sites provide COVID-19 testing, assessment by medical professionals, and distribution of oral antiviral treatments in the same location. The sites will be established in partnership with state, Tribal, and territorial governments with support and coordination from HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Test-to-Treat sites will be “targeted to meet demand and increase equitable access” to COVID-19 treatments, collaborating with state and local health agencies.
  • Increasing public awareness of, and education about COVID-19 treatments. The White House fact sheet says administration efforts will focus on providing accurate information about COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments including that they must be taken within the first 5 five days of symptom onset and how they work to reduce risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19. These efforts build on other steps the administration has taken recently, such as launching the COVID.gov website, promoting test-and-treat messages on social media, launching the Test-to-Treat locator, and establishing a call center to provide help in English, Spanish and more than 150 other languages.
  • Giving medical providers more guidance and tools for understanding and prescribing treatments. Optimal use of new COVID-19 treatments rests on clear understanding among health care providers of the drugs’ risks and benefits, contraindications, adverse events and other side effects, the statement says. To that end the Biden administration has for months, the fact sheet states, held weekly webinars with state and territorial health officials and medical organizations and clinical educational sessions with providers who specialize in treating high-risk patients.

    According to the fact sheet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week issued a Health Alert Network health advisory to public health officials with additional information about the efficacy and availability of oral antiviral treatments. In addition, the administration is asking electronic health records companies to incorporate information about oral antivirals directly into health records interfaces. Doing so would make it easier to integrate the prescribing of oral antivirals into doctors’ everyday practice.

Resources

COVID-19 Test-to-Treat locator National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan
Multilingual COVID-19 Call Center (800-232-0233)