INDIANAPOLIS – Although Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid has been available since last fall in Indiana, several providers say they’ve only prescribed the drug to a small number of patients.
Vice President Kamala Harris is being treated with the drug after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
“I think that we may have dispensed five or six, maybe 10 doses of it,” said Dr. Thomas Huth, vice president for medical affairs at Reid Health in Richmond.
That’s largely because Indiana is seeing a much lower spread of COVID-19 right now compared to other times during the pandemic.
The pill is meant for patients with certain risk factors for severe illness and must be started when a patient is showing mild or moderate COVID symptoms, Dr. Huth explained.
“For the right patient, it can mean a difference between having a mild case and having a severe enough case to need to be hospitalized,” he said.
Still, doctors warn Paxlovid isn’t for everyone.
“We’re still primarily using monoclonal antibody – it’s just a cleaner therapy,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring, vice president of medical affairs for Franciscan Health. “The oral medication Paxlovid does have a lot of drug interaction, has a lot of contraindications.”
It “hasn’t been more than a handful” of patients who have obtained Paxlovid from Franciscan Health in Indianapolis, Dr. Doehring added.
Dr. Doehring said health care facilities like his are using this time to continue to build up their supply of therapeutics.
Those could be in higher demand later on if there’s another COVID surge, he said.
“We really can protect the hospitals, the ICUs and keep patients at home recovering,” Dr. Doehring said.
We’ve reached out to the Indiana Department of Health to learn more about the state’s supply of Paxlovid and are still waiting to hear back.
According to the FDA, patients need to start Paxlovid within the first five days of showing symptoms. If you get sick and may qualify for the medication, doctors suggest getting tested and asking your physician about the drug as quickly as possible.