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Monday, July 4, 2022

COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment released in limited supply to Yolo County pharmacies

Paxlovid and Molnupiravir reduce risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 infection

By LEVI GOLDSTEIN city@theaggie.org

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued Emergency Use Authorization for oral COVID-19 treatments Paxlovid on Dec. 22 and Molnupiravir on Dec. 23. These antiviral pills are now available at select pharmacies in Yolo County, according to a Yolo County press release published on Dec. 28. 

“With the Omicron variant causing a rapid spread of COVID-19 cases in Yolo County, these new antiviral pills come at a critical time,” said Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson in a statement from the press release. 

Paxlovid reduces risk for hospitalization or death from the COVID-19 virus by approximately 89%, according to Pfizer, its manufacturer. A study sponsored by Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., Molnupiravir’s manufacturer, found that Molnupiravir reduces risk for hospitalization or death by approximately 31%, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. The FDA also confirmed the effectiveness of both Paxlovid and Molnupiravir in two separate press releases.  

Molnupiravir and Paxlovid should only be taken with a prescription. They are intended to be taken within five days of symptom onset and while symptoms are still mild. Molnupiravir is only approved for adults while Paxlovid is available to adults and children 12 years of age or older. 

Yolo County received 140 prescriptions of Molnupiravir and 20 prescriptions of Paxlovid, according to the Dec. 28 press release. The Rite Aid pharmacy on West Main Street in Woodland has both medications, while Winters Healthcare has only Molnupiravir. Winters Healthcare currently fills all prescriptions at the CVS pharmacy on North 1st Street in Dixon. 

Since the medication supply is limited, distribution to those at high risk of severe disease will be the top priority. 

“They go to people who are at severe risk of hospitalization or death from COVID, generally people who have comorbidities, for example, anyone who is immunocompromised,” said John Fout, the Yolo County Public Information Officer. 

Additional shipments of the drugs are expected to be delivered to more pharmacies in the coming months. However, they will not likely be available for mass distribution any time soon, according to Fout.

“There’s going to be a large amount of people who are getting sick, and there’s just going to be no way that all these people can be treated, unfortunately,” Fout said. 

Oral antiviral treatment should not be a substitute for vaccination or wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to Dr. Sisson. 

“Please continue to take steps to avoid infection in the first place and don’t count on an antiviral pill being available if you get infected in the next few weeks,” Dr. Sisson said in the Dec. 28 press release. 

Despite the limited supply, Fout is hopeful that the new antiviral medications will prove helpful. 

“They’re exciting because they’re highly efficacious,” Fout said. “It’s a much better option than a lot of the other antibody treatments because those are all very complicated to administer and usually have to be done in-patient, whereas this is obviously just a pill. That’s much easier and a lot less time consuming and more likely to help somebody out.”

Written by: Levi Goldstein — city@theaggie.org

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