A top Doctor in Ontario has said the province is considering giving permission to pharmacists to prescribe the COVID-19 treatment drug, Paxlovid, in a bid to increase access.
While disclosing the development recently, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Kieran Moore said that the health system will witness a “triple threat” of COVID-19, a bad flu season and the revival of childhood respiratory virus this fall and winter.
According to him, looking for ways to ensure higher availability of medication to keep people with COVID-19 out of hospital is of great importance for more rural communities.
While talking to The Canadian Press, he said: “I do know the government is reviewing the ability of pharmacists to be able to prescribe this directly after a positive test.
“There was concern in particular in isolated areas. Where you may not have good access to a primary care physician, you may have access to a pharmacist. So that gap was looked at and I do believe they’re working aggressively on that.”
While talking further, he said many medical officers of health around Ontario have raised the issue.
He said: “I do think it is one solution in increasing the access.”
Justin Bates, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, disclosed that his group has been pushing for pharmacists in Ontario to be able to prescribe Paxlovid, as pharmacists in other provinces can.
He said: “Given our experience in point-of-care testing, our knowledge of medications – particularly complex medications like Paxlovid, where there’s a lot of drug-to-drug interactions – and more, I would say, in-depth consultation that’s required with patients, pharmacists are well-positioned to provide that as a turnkey solution.”
Paxlovid is an antiviral medication administered orally within five days of commencement of symptom.
The drug is recommended for people at high risk of COVID-19 complications, like people over 70 and certain immune-compromised people, especially those that have not taken at least three vaccine doses. The medication can be prescribed by a primary care provider or at a COVID-19 clinical assessment centre.
Bates said: “Having pharmacies as one more avenue for prescriptions will enable quicker access, and therefore keep more people out of hospital this winter.
“The earlier you started in five days, the better in terms of preventing serious symptoms and illness whereby you would then need to go to the hospital or, even worse, into the hospital’s ICU.
“Paxlovid is currently sitting on shelves.
“The amount of volume going through the stores, anecdotally, is very low.”
According to Moore, about 3,500 treatments of Paxlovid are currently being prescribed every week as demand appears to go up as COVID-19 activity rises.
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