Oral COVID treatments available locally
Warren County has moved into the low community transmission category, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But there are still cases. And, now there are outpatients treatments available.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced 14 new cases on Tuesday after consecutive days with no new cases.
As of Monday, Warren General Hospital had two positive cases among inpatients, according to CEO Rick Allen.
Regional hospital CEOs are “all reporting significant decline in number of COVID-19 positive inpatients,” he said. Some of those reported having no COVID-positive patients. Generally, COVID-19 testing volume is down about 75 percent.
Those who become infected can still be at some risk.
There are two antivirals available by prescription for people who are at high-risk, who test positive for COVID, and exhibit symptoms.
According to Gaughn’s Drug Store Clinical Coordinator and Project Manager Justin Scholl, Paxlovid (manufactured by Pfizer) and Molnupiravir (Merck) are available through the pharmacy.
“These function in the same way that the COVID vaccines do — there’s no out-of-pocket cost to the patient,” Scholl said.
The roll-out is also similar, with the drugs available for high-risk patients only, so far.
“They’re both indicated for patients at high-risk,” Scholl said. “These are supposed to be used for not just your average person who gets sick from COVID.”
Both were given emergency use authorization — Molnupiravir in December and Paxlovid in February.
Neither is a preventative — they aren’t prescribed to prevent COVID. And they are not available over-the-counter.
“You can’t just go in and get it,” Scholl said. “You have to have a positive COVID test. You have to have symptoms. It needs to be within five days of your symptom onset.”
The medications are only available by prescription and there are some differences, including effectiveness and drug interactions.
“According to the evidence, Paxlovid has been pretty substantially more effective — around 90 percent,” Scholl said.
That’s for preventing hospitalization and death.
For the Molnupiravir, the number drops to about 30 percent, he said.
But, Molnupiravir “doesn’t have any drug interactions. It doesn’t have to be dose adjusted. It’s pretty much a one-size-fits-all,” Scholl said. It does carry “pretty substantial” risks for children and pregnant women.
On the other hand, “Paxlovid works like a lot of drugs for HIV,” Scholl said. “It’s a protease inhibitor. It’s a combo drug.”
Part of the combination “blocks the body from metabolizing the active drug,” he said. “You end up with a ton of drug interactions. A lot of drugs interact with this medication. It also has to be dosed based on your liver or kidney function.”
Local providers — physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are able to prescribe the anti-virals — are aware of the drugs, their availability, and their limitations, Scholl said.
“We’ve been working closely with (Warren General Hospital Medical Director) Dr. (Keith) Price,” Scholl said. “He’s been kind enough to push out information to the prescribers. He’s been really helpful.”
“If you develop COVID-19, if you’re one of those high-risk people, you should definitely reach out to your doctor,” Scholl said.
Whether or not that results in an anti-viral prescription… “You can have the discussion.”