The Biden administration will allow all pharmacies to order Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 therapy pill, as it looks to boost access to the promising drug as the supply increases.
The administration announced new steps on Tuesday to expand access to the Paxlovid pills and encourage broader use, senior administration officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan.
Starting this week, tens of thousands of pharmacies will be able to order the drugs, and the administration will launch more sites where people can be tested, examined and get pills in one stop — a so-called test-to-treat system that’s been slow to get underway since Biden announced it in the State of the Union.
There are about 20,000 sites nationally now with access to antiviral pills, and the administration hopes to add 10,000 more in the coming weeks.
The White House has been encouraging people to seek out the pills, which were rare early in the year but are increasing in supply. The new White House Covid czar, Ashish Jha, will brief reporters Tuesday.
“We need to focus on making sure that everybody who is eligible knows they are eligible and they can get access to it because it is very effective in treating Covid,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
About 500,000 courses have been reported as having been used so far, one of the officials said. While eligibility isn’t being expanded, providers were holding doses back for the sickest people early on — when the medicine was scarce — and no longer need to do so, one official said.
As much as 60% of adults who contract the coronavirus may be eligible for Paxlovid, but not everyone has been able to make use of it, officials said.
The administration had about 4 million treatment courses available as of last month, according to an Health and Human Services briefing document provided to a senator, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg.
The U.S. expected to receive 2.5 million courses of the Pfizer pill in April, the biggest one-month total yet. The U.S. has committed to buying a total of 20 million courses.
The pill must be taken within 5 days of the onset of symptoms.
There are about 2,200 test-to-treat sites that have been set up so far. The federal government said it will work with states and other jurisdictions to set up more, one of the officials said.
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