Nearly 600,000 courses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid are unused in America
Nearly 600,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid antiviral pill, Paxlovid, are currently unused on pharmacy shelves, according to official statistics.
Data from the US Department of Health revealed the accumulation of drug stocks, which significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization for vulnerable people who catch Covid.
There are also 200,000 courses of Evusheld, AstraZeneca’s Covid antibody drug, now waiting to be distributed, while more than a million doses of Merck’s antiviral pill Lagevrio are now available.
White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has previously admitted that drug stocks are “underutilized” across the country.
Experts suggest that too few doctors are aware that the treatments – which are only available by prescription – are in stock.
They say a lack of Covid testing – leaving many infections unconfirmed – and the pills being available to too few people are also to blame for the low usage rates.
It comes amid a rise in cases in the United States, which have risen 38% over the past week. But hospitalization and death figures remain low.
Stocks of Covid treatments for immunocompromised people are currently on pharmacy shelves across the United States. The map above shows the location of these treatments, and the numbers that remain available
The federal government has purchased millions of doses of anti-Covid treatments.
It was only last month that President Joe Biden pledged to provide the drugs free to anyone who needed them.
But statistics suggest that despite the treatments being available nationwide, they are failing to reach many Americans.
What is Paxlovid, Pfizer’s ‘gold standard’ Covid drug?
Paxlovid is an antiviral drug designed to stop a Covid infection in its tracks.
The pill works by interfering with the viral replication process, preventing Covid from copying itself.
This buys valuable time for the immune system to fight off the virus.
It is available by prescription in the United States for all immunocompromised Americans within five days of the onset of Covid symptoms.
It’s also free, with the federal government paying the $530 bill for each course.
Patients receiving the treatment should take three tablets twice a day for five days.
Clinical trials have shown it reduced hospitalization rates by 89% in people at risk who took it within three days of the onset of Covid symptoms. Some of them have been vaccinated.
Supplies were scarce when the pill was first approved in December, but there are now plenty of them in the United States in many states.
One of the pills available is Paxlovid – an antiviral pill that works by stopping virus replication, giving the body time to fight an infection.
It is available by prescription in the United States and involves taking three tablets twice a day for five days.
It’s also free for Americans, with the federal government footing the $530 bill for each course.
Clinical trials have shown it reduced hospitalization rates by 89% in people at risk who took it within three days of the onset of Covid symptoms. Some of these patients have been vaccinated.
The drug has been approved for over-12s with mild or moderate Covid who were at risk of contracting the virus in December.
But supplies were initially hard to come by, until in recent weeks packages started piling up on the shelves.
Dr Ryan Maves, an infectious disease expert at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, warned that few doses were being prescribed because doctors were unaware the pill was available.
He said BNC News: ‘I think part of the challenge is so early on that there was so little supply, and getting hold of it was a real challenge.
“But people caring for high-risk patients might not know it’s so much easier to get now.”
Dr Paul Sax, an infectious disease expert at Harvard Medical School, warned that too few pills were being used due to a lack of Covid testing leading to many undiagnosed infections.
He added that the categories of people to be treated were also too narrow, leading to many not receiving the drugs that could benefit them.
There have also been problems rolling out Evusheld which, unlike Paxlovid, is for immunocompromised patients who have been exposed to Covid but have not yet developed symptoms of the virus.
The treatment is available by prescription and must be given in two injections usually in each buttock.
Scientists say it can trigger up to six months of protection against infection with the virus.
It was approved by the FDA for immunocompromised over-12s in December, but again, many doses remain on the shelves.
Janet Handal, who leads an advocacy group for immunocompromised people, said CNN that as with Paxlovid, many doctors were also unaware of this treatment.
“We’ve had people in our group call their doctor and ask about Evusheld and they’re told, ‘What is it? “, She said.
Dr William Schaffner, a liaison representative for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, warned that many doctors were unaware of the treatments because they had been approved at a time when there was an “avalanche” of news about Covid.
“No one knows Evusheld,” he said. ‘I think it’s very sad.
“There’s never been a mechanism that says ‘listen, listen, we have a new way to protect your immunocompromised patients from Covid, and this is how you get it for your patients’.
There have also been issues with distribution of Merck’s Lagevrio – the brand name for molnupiravir – which, like Paxlovid, is available to immunocompromised people within five days of the onset of Covid symptoms.
It is taken as four capsules every 12 hours for five days and is also free for Americans.
Clinical studies show that Lagevrio reduces the risk of hospitalization and death by 30% in patients with at least one factor that puts them at increased risk for Covid – such as being overweight or an underlying condition.
The United States is currently averaging around 39,400 Covid cases per day, up slightly from the 33,000 recorded a week ago.
But there are growing outbreaks in several states — like New York — that could be fueled by a new strain of Omicron.
The total number of cases in the United States is also believed to be a serious underestimate of the current situation on the ground, as many people with Covid symptoms are not getting tested.
Hospitalizations in the country are currently averaging around 1,400 a day, which was barely a change from a week ago.
But some areas — including the city of Philadelphia and several universities — are already bringing back mask mandates fearing a further rise in cases.