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Mid-South receiving more COVID-19 medications doctor calls part of ‘fix’ to normalcy

The Tennessee Department of Health announced its allocations of two antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 is increasing
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 6:37 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Doctors praise the recent COVID-19 antiviral pills on the market. Now, the Mid-South is poised to receive more of those pills.

The Tennessee Department of Health said it is continuing to get increased bi-weekly shipments of the two pills with the FDA’s emergency use authorization, Paxlovid by Pfizer and molnupiravir by Merck

“I’m a huge fan of these medications,” Baptist Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld said. “I think they are what we need to get us over the finish line.”

The EUA allows for doctors to prescribe the pills to only high risk COVID-19 positive patients. Threlkeld said unlike the monoclonal antibodies the pills can have dangerous interactions with some medications.

“You need to know what your patient is taking before you run out and give them this drug,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “If you can do that we found them to be pretty well tolerated.”

More units of the medications mean more access. In Tennessee, the state health department supplied only one pharmacy chain, Walmart, with the medications because of limited supply.

As recently as last week officials in Shelby County said the Pfizer pill was in short supply. Memphis COO Doug McGowen called the bi-weekly allocations a ‘trickle.’

Now, all Tennessee pharmacies can start requesting doses from the allocations. TDH said pharmacies can request doses through the State REDCap survey

Tennessee received more than 8,200 of both of the medications combined in its last allocations, Mississippi and Arkansas received just over 3,600.

The next allocation will come next week. The Tennessee Department of Health said it does not know its allotted doses ahead of time.

Pfizer’s pill called Paxlovid has shown to be nearly 90% effective in preventing serious illness from COVID-19. Merk’s pill has a 30% efficacy rate.

“What we have currently in our hands would make up the fix for the lifestyle problems we’ve been having to get us back to a more normal situation,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

Threlkeld said the pills are only as good as the amount of testing we have. According to the EUA, you must have a positive COVID-19 test before being prescribed the medication. A lack of testing can lead to a patient missing the window of when the antiviral will be effective.

It’s recommended the pills are taken for mild to moderate COVID-19 cases in the first days of infection.

“This increase in allocations is something we have been anticipating for weeks,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP in a press release Tuesday. “Our goal has always been to increase access to these treatments by onboarding more pharmacies to maximize access to patients. We have seen a steady increase in allocations to the state and know many pharmacies and providers are eager to offer this treatment to help mitigate COVID-19 disease progression for those at risk of a severe outcome.”

Action News 5 requested an interview with Dr. Piercey Wednesday but she was not available.

The Tennessee Department of Health will update its list of pharmacies with the pills every Friday.

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