TUESDAY, April 26, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Plans to nearly double the number of pharmacies and other locations that carry the antiviral pill Paxlovid for COVID-19 were announced Tuesday by the Biden administration.
Demand for the drug has risen in recent weeks along with coronavirus cases, but many Americans have said they can't find a doctor to prescribe the drug, or a pharmacy that has it, when they get COVID-19, the Washington Post reported.
The White House said it plans to increase the number of pharmacies, hospitals, community health clinics and urgent care centers that carry Paxlovid from 20,000 to 40,000 in the coming weeks.
Another Biden administration move to increase availability of the Pfizer pill is more "test-to-treat" programs in pharmacies and clinics, where people will be given five days worth of the medication if they test positive for the coronavirus, the Post reported.
Paxlovid was authorized by federal regulators late last year and the Biden administration has committed to buy 20 million treatment courses.
One reason that patients are having trouble obtaining the drug is confusion and inconsistency among doctors over prescribing the drug, according to the Post.
Paxlovid was originally authorized for patients at high risk of severe COVID-19 and was in short supply during the Omicron surge.
Studies have shown that Paxlovid can cut the risk of hospitalization or death by about 90% when patients start taking it within three to five days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, the Post reported.
The drug has been in high demand as coronavirus cases once again rise, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant BA.2. The seven-day average of new COVID cases was 47,029 on Monday, up from about 38,000 one week prior, even as many new infections go unreported as more Americans turn to home test kits, the Post reported.
Visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health for more on COVID antiviral treatments.