Anti-viral COVID-19 treatments now more widely available in Windsor-Essex

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Life-saving COVID-19 treatments administered to more than 200 people at Windsor Regional Hospital so far have become more widely available since the once-scarce drugs hit the provincial market earlier this year.

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During a presentation to the hospital’s board of directors on Thursday, chief of staff Dr. Wassim Saad said the supply of two anti-viral medications is no longer a concern, and more people are now eligible for treatment.

“Both of these drugs have been very effective at keeping people out of hospital,” Saad said. “They are in the range of 88- to 92-per-cent effective at preventing hospitalizations.

“They are really game changers when it comes to overwhelming our health-care capacity,” Saad said.

Eligibility for paxlovid, a pill, and remdesivir, an intravenous drug administered in-hospital, is still limited to those at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 — but the list of qualifiers has broadened since the drug arrived at Windsor Regional Hospital in January. Immuno-compromised adults, those over age 70, and those over age 60 with fewer than three COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as any adult with fewer than three vaccine doses and at least one of about a dozen medical conditions can seek out treatment .

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Treatment is only available for those who have tested positive, and treatment with paxlovid must begin within five days of symptom onset in order to work.

In the last few weeks, the province has made paxlovid available through some outpatient pharmacies, Saad said, and primary care physicians can now prescribe the treatment to their patients. The main drawback is the drug’s many “drug-to-drug interactions,” meaning there are some medications “that you absolutely cannot take with paxlovid.”

For those who can’t take paxlovid, the hospital offers remdesivir intravenously at its COVID-19 assessment center.

Those with COVID-19 symptoms should consult with their primary care provider and have a physician determine whether they qualify for anti-viral treatment, Saad said.

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