Health

COVID-19 pill rollout stalled due to shortages as omicron rages

Craige Campbell, a website manager from Desert Hot Springs, California, began leaving messages to his doctor immediately after testing positive for COVID-19 and having a fever of 101 degrees. Despite the absence of concomitant diseases, he was soon prescribed a prescription.

The only pharmacy that sold the drug was over an hour away, so Campbell asked a friend to pick it up for him.

“In a way, I felt a little privileged,” he said. “The chances of him hitting my plate at the right time were just unbelievable.”

At the same time, there is a shortage of antibody-based, injectable or injectable drugs that can prevent death and hospitalization. Only one of them, from GlaxoSmithKline, seems to be effective against omicrons, and it is also limited.

Federal officials are limiting supplies to about 50,000 doses per week. This week, the government announced the purchase of another 600,000 doses on top of the 400,000 purchased in November.

At UPMC’s hospital system in Pennsylvania, staff can treat fewer than 1,000 patients per week with antibodies, up from 4,000 earlier during the pandemic.

Physicians and nurses in the US have developed sophisticated ways of deciding who should receive scarce medicines based on patients’ symptoms, their underlying medical risks, where they live, and whether they are healthy enough to travel for infusions.

What do we have on hand? is the first question, said Dr. Greg Schrank of the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Among these treatments, which one is the most effective and how can we target people we know are the most dangerous?”

The treatment situation is becoming increasingly difficult as exhausted, frustrated hospital workers struggle to cope with the growing number of hospitalizations.

As of Sunday, nearly 128,000 Americans were in hospital with COVID-19, up from a record 125,000 last January. While fewer COVID-19 patients now require intensive care, the surge is pushing hospitals to the limit.

Given that threat, Pfizer’s pills arrived just in time, Schrank said.

“It won’t make a difference in the total number of cases, but it can really help mitigate the impact on hospitals,” he said.


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