Health leaders and patients welcome plan to expand access to antivirals for COVID-19
PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - The Whitehouse announced efforts Tuesday intended to make antiviral COVID-19 treatments more easily available.
The Biden administration stated new efforts will include nearly doubling the number of places oral antivirals are available in the coming weeks.
Maine has seen growth over the last month in the number of locations where residents can receive medications with a prescription.
Charles Bunting, a Rockport resident, says on Valentine’s Day he became sick with COVID-19.
His doctor called in a prescription for Pfizer’s Paxlovid to the closest pharmacy carrying the drug, roughly 20 miles away.
“I think I took the pills right there in the parking lot. I was so desperate,” Bunting said.
Three hours after taking the drug, Bunting says he felt better.
“I was like, wasn’t I dying three hours ago? I am telling you it was insanely like that,” Bunting said.
The state’s website lists 54 locations where COVID-19 patients can access antivirals such as Paxlovid or monoclonal antibodies.
It’s an improvement from one month ago.
At that time three counties, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc and Hancock, had no locations. Eight counties had just one.
As of Tuesday, only two counties, Piscataquis and Sagadahoc, have no locations and four have only one.
“We have had issues where sometimes one of our providers, a patient’s pharmacy, wasn’t carrying the medication,” said Dr. James Jarvis of Northern Light Health.
In Tuesday’s announcement, the Biden administration said the federal government also plans to boost support for one-stop “test-to-treat” sites and ramp up public messaging on the safety of treatments.
Jarvis says that is particularly important because even with limited access so far supply has exceeded demand in Maine.
“So this is welcome news. If there are more pharmacies that can provide it and it makes it easier for our staff to be able to get the medication into patients’ hands as soon as possible,” Jarvis said.
Paxlovid has to be taken within five days of the first symptoms.
That is part of why Bunting wants Mainers to make a plan.
“I would just have a phone number ready for your doctor to let them know you have COVID and the second you’re approved just do it, get it,” Bunting said.
A large part of the federal government’s expansion in availability for antivirals is with pharmacy chains such as CVS.
Drugs like Paxlovid are expected to be available in stores, according to CVS spokesperson.
Five CVS locations in Maine offer “Minute Clinic” services where patients can get a COVID-19 test and medication, if necessary, in store.
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