Doctors find barriers to using pills to treat COVID-19
He said some people don’t consider themselves at high risk or think they’re sick enough to need the pills that patients get for free. They also worried about side effects or how the drugs would interact with other drugs.
Jeff Carlson couldn’t try Paxlovid when COVID-19 hit him in January because it could affect his heart medication. A 61-year-old resident of suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, suffers from type 1 diabetes and heart disease.
The doctor asked him to try molnupiravir about three days after he started experiencing symptoms. By that time, Carlson could no longer get up from the couch. His fever rose sharply and he struggled to breathe.
His wife accepted the recipe, and after a few days Carlson was well enough to shovel snow.
“It literally changed me in…almost 18 hours after I took my first dose,” he said.
Some healthcare providers have launched free delivery of paxlovide or molnupiravir.
A hotline has been opened in New York where patients can call if they test positive for coronavirus. They can talk to a health care provider if they don’t have a doctor and get pills if they are a good candidate.
Mass General Brigham Healthcare in Boston has launched a similar program that ships pills to some patients via FedEx.
Raymond Kelly received a package of Paxlovid about three hours after the doctor cleared him for a prescription last month. A 75-year-old resident of Needham, Massachusetts, said he contracted the virus despite being vaccinated and given a booster shot.
His doctor spoke to him on the phone minutes after the health system notified him of the positive test result.
“It was like a blur because everything happened so fast,” Kelly said.
Mass General Brigham is committed to treating patients quickly and resolving transportation issues through its program. Dr. Scott Dryden-Peterson noted that some COVID-19 patients may not be able to pick up their pills, especially since they should stay away from buses and shared services.
“Transportation is unevenly distributed in our society,” he said.
For patients in transit, the CVS Health pharmacy chain has launched “test-to-treat” programs at its nearly 1,200 stores located in MinuteClinic locations. Pharmacists can’t test and treat, so this program won’t work in all stores.
Other retailers, such as the Kroger grocer, are also planning to provide testing and treatment in some locations. The Biden administration has urged federally compliant community health centers to do the same, but Health Secretary Xavier Becerra recently told The Associated Press that the test-for-cure initiative could be thwarted by a financial deadlock with Congress.
Cook County Public Health in Chicago has been conducting COVID-19 field testing since the beginning of the pandemic. He plans to launch a pilot program that adds therapies. Patients will be able to drive up to one of the tents, get tested, wait about 15 minutes for a result, and then talk to a doctor via telemedicine, Dr. Greg Hoon said.
Doctors and public health officials say it’s time to stock up on at-home tests with the growing capacity to help people quickly.
According to Neil J. Segal, a health policy expert at the University of Maryland, testing stocks that were short during the omicron surge have since rebounded. But he noted that future supplies would also depend on federal funding.
Doctors say people at high risk of developing health problems from COVID-19 should remain vigilant for symptoms and seek help quickly, especially if a new spike develops.
“Perhaps now is not the time to let down our guard,” Hong said.