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Elusive ‘Paxlovid’ pill treats COVID-19 symptoms

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 10:40 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As COVID-19 cases increase in the Mid-South, a leading infectious disease doctor says a key medicine to treat the virus isn’t being prescribed nearly enough.

Dr. Steven Threlkeld with Baptist Hospital said Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment in pill form granted Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA in December, can and does save lives.

“It is, unfortunately, underutilized,” Dr. Threlkeld told Action News 5, “We actually have in our hands the ability to cut the severe illness and deaths from this way, way down and I think we’re under-utilizing it. We haven’t taken full advantage of that ability.”

The federal government’s Test to Treat website shows locations near you that offer Paxlovid. In the Memphis area that’s CVS, Kroger and Walmart pharmacies. But you need a doctor to write you a prescription first.

“More of the people prescribing it are primary care physicians,” said Threlkeld, “and so that’s the group that needs to be the most educated about it and the most willing to use it to get it to people quickly.”

Dr. Threlkeld said Paxlovid is designed for older and at-risk patients, like those with immuno-compromised issues. Paxlovid also interacts with many other medications like statins, beta-blockers, insulin, anti-depressants and blood thinners, so checking in with a doctor is important.

“Usually we can work around those interactions with most patients,” said Threlkeld.

Taking Paxlovid the first five days you notice symptoms is also key, and not always easy.

“So it is a bit of a barrier for some people,” admitted Dr. Threlkeld, “those folks who are shut in or elderly or don’t have the ability to get to a pharmacy... all those things are a problem to try and get everybody who could benefit from this drug actually get the drug in their hands.”

The Shelby County Health Department reported 95 new positive COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, May 4. As cases go up, hospitalizations have not, and Dr. Threlkeld credits the vaccine for that. 

He says Paxlovid can help curb that statistic even more.  Since the start of the pandemic more than two years ago, SCHD has reported 3,281 COVID-19 deaths in Shelby County.

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