During his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden announced a “test to treat” initiative that would allow people to get the new COVID-19 pills if they test positive and are at high risk for severe disease.
At Rush University Medical Center, the latest COVID-19 treatments are already available to patients who need them, including the new antiviral pills from Pfizer and Merck, says Erin Shaughnessy, PharmD, director of inpatient pharmacy.
Pills cut risk for developing severe COVID-19
If a RUSH physician prescribes one of the new COVID-19 pills for you, you can receive them from the medical center’s outpatient pharmacy, Shaughnessy says. (Other locations where pills are available are published by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.)
The new pills available include Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir, which prevent the COVID-19 virus from replicating in different ways. Paxlovid has been shown to reduce the risk for hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by 88% among high-risk patients when taken within five days of getting symptoms. Molnupiravir reduces the risk for hospitalization or death by 30%.
Offering the latest monoclonal antibody
Some patients who do not qualify for the new COVID-19 pills may be candidates for the latest monoclonal antibody treatment, sotrovimab, available as an outpatient treatment for high-risk patients at RUSH.
Sold under the brand name Xevudy, the drug, which is given through an intravenous line, has been shown to be effective against the omicron variant, unlike older monoclonal antibody drugs.
“During the most recent surge, the medical center opened a temporary COVID treatment infusion center to meet the needs of community members who were candidates for sotrovimab,” Shaughnessy says. “RUSH has also partnered with home health services to provide home administration to high-risk patients.”
New drug available for immunocompromised patients
Some people with weakened immune systems do not have adequate protection against the virus that causes COVID-19 even when they have been vaccinated. For them, a new treatment called Evusheld is available in some outpatient settings at RUSH to help protect against COVID-19 infection.
Evusheld is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies, tixagevimab and cilgavimab, given as two separate injections.
At the medical center, a team of doctors and pharmacists created a process to identify patients who might qualify for the drug, including those who have had a solid organ transplant or who have other conditions that may weaken their immune system, such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
A hopeful future
Looking ahead, Shaughnessy is optimistic that the new COVID-19 treatments and broader testing will further advance the recent progress made against COVID-19.
“For the general population, we have existing oral agents, such as Paxlovid, that are highly effective, and we hope to see these prescribed more often in combination with widespread COVID testing,” Shaughnessy says.
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