On Jan. 19, Abby Robinson was gasping for air as she drove herself to a Long Beach, California, emergency hospital, scared that the combination of her cystic fibrosis and what she assumed was Covid-19 would be lethal.
A physician offered the 24-year-old graduate student hope when a nurse highlighted her as a high-risk patient and a quick coronavirus test came back positive: a prescription for Pfizer’s new antiviral cocktail, Paxlovid.
As ill as she was, Robinson was now in charge of tracking down a supply of the medicine.
Since its emergency authorization on Dec. 22, Paxlovid, a five-day oral Covid therapy that can considerably lower the risk of hospitalisation and death, has been in dangerously limited supply.
California was seeing a record-breaking omicron-fueled rise in cases when Robinson was given the medication. She was up against a slew of other newly diagnosed persons for a piece of the federal government’s latest two-week allotment of only 9,560 pill courses.
Robinson made a flurry of calls to around two dozen local pharmacies before discovering a practically empty Paxlovid supply at an Orange County CVS. She said that if she hadn’t driven “in the fast lane” to guarantee she there before the medicine went, the pharmacy would have been 30 minutes away.
These significant shortages have hampered health care professionals as a result of the omicron variant’s winter spike, which has resulted in a pressing demand for medications to keep patients with Covid out of the hospital. States have made matters worse by failing to prioritise persons who are most at danger of serious illness or death, such as immunocompromised people and unvaccinated people with underlying health issues.
An emergency physician told Robinson that the only monoclonal antibody medication still approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat omicron, GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology’s sotrovimab, was not accessible at any hospital near Long Beach.
Once someone at high risk of severe Covid is recognised, timing is crucial. The medications must be used within five days after the commencement of symptoms, which adds to the stress of getting a prescription filled.
Prescriptions for antiviral drugs are being restricted
Robinson’s frantic medical escapades exemplify the extreme extent to which many Americans have been compelled to travel in search of this limited, perhaps lifesaving antiviral drug.
The Biden administration has ordered 20 million Paxlovid courses, half of which will be delivered by the end of June and the rest by September 30, according to Pfizer. The medicine will not be available in large quantities until April.
Despite the fact that the US recorded 20 million Covid cases and 55,000 linked fatalities in January alone, the federal government has only been able to distribute 265,000 Paxlovid courses to state health departments. While omicron incidences are decreasing across the country, there are still over 140,000 hospitalizations and thousands of people dying from Covid every day.
The federal government now distributes Paxlovid to state health departments, which then distribute their portion to local pharmacies, health systems, and long-term care facilities as they see appropriate.