US pharmacists can now prescribe COVID pills. Canada should do the same, experts say – National |

On Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave state-licensed pharmacists the green light to prescribe Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill, also known as Paxlovid, to eligible patients. In Canada, only a few provinces allow it, but the Canadian Pharmacists Association says “Pharmacists in all jurisdictions” should have the authority to recommend antiviral treatment to those who need it.

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“Pharmacists in all jurisdictions must be enabled to provide the necessary tests for COVID-19, prescribe and dispense Paxlovid for high-risk patients,” Danielle Paes, chief pharmaceutical officer at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, told Global News on Thursday. .

“Authorizing pharmacists to prescribe can improve access to equitable care and encourage faster initiation of (COVID) treatment by streamlining the entire process within the pharmacy: screening, assessment, prescribing, dispensing,” he added.

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According to the FDA, use of the pill, authorized to treat newly infected people at risk to prevent serious illness, has skyrocketed in recent weeks in the United States and the same is being reported in Canada, according to the Canadian Pharmacists Association. .

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Currently, only pharmacists in Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador have been authorized by provincial health authorities to prescribe antiviral treatment.

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“You may be interested to know that pharmaceutical prescription has increased uptake,” Tyler Gogo, a spokesman for the pharmacists’ association, told Global News in an email on Thursday.

“For example, during the period after pharmacist authorization was granted in Quebec, more than 68% of Paxlovid treatments were prescribed by pharmacists,” Gogo said.

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According to Health Canada, the antiviral drug Paxlovid can be given to adults over the age of 18 who test positive for COVID-19, experience mild to moderate illness and are at high risk of severe illness.

Currently, the agency recommends prioritizing severely immunocompromised patients, people over the age of 80 who have not received all of their vaccinations, and people over the age of 60 who live in remote and rural locations, long-term care homes, and First Nations.

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“This is a really useful drug… it helps people who are most at risk of ending up in hospital and succumbing to the disease,” Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, told Global News.

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Since Paxlovid must be taken within five days of the start of symptoms, Bogoch says authorizing pharmacists to prescribe the treatment can help reduce barriers to accessing the drug and help people who need it to take it earlier. how late

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“Pharmacists can directly link people to care, so I think (allowing them to prescribe Paxlovid) is a no-brainer,” he said.

Bogoch also points out that there are a number of barriers to accessing this treatment that he believes pharmacies can help reduce. The first is awareness: not many people know about Paxlovid, he says.

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“Certainly we need to make sure everyone knows that if they get COVID and have risk factors for severe illness, there is something to keep them out of the hospital,” he said.

The second barrier is access to diagnostic tests. Bogoch says quick or easy access to a COVID-19 test is necessary to confirm if someone is positive.

“We have somewhat limited access to diagnostic tests in many parts of the country. It certainly isn’t even close to what it was before,” Bogoch said.

He also says that pharmacists are “the best on the planet” at looking at drug interactions.

They can look at a patient’s medical history and are equipped to perform PCR or rapid tests with a decent turnaround time to confirm if someone is COVID-positive, Bogoch said.

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Paes also echoed Bogoch’s sentiment, saying “Pharmacists are the drug experts and are well positioned to help advise patients and other prescribers about the appropriateness of Paxlovid given the risk of drug interactions and how to tailor other therapies.” with drugs for the short course of Paxlovid”. treatment.”

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The third and final barrier, says Bogoch, is that Canadians need prescriptions to obtain Paxlovid, but not everyone has the same degree of access to family doctors.

Pharmacists, on the other hand, are everywhere in the community and can help improve access, he said.

“Pharmacies are an important pillar of our health care system,” Bogoch said. “I think obviously we need to talk about capacity in the health care system. With such limited capacity, why ignore one of the fundamental pillars of our health system? he added he.

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In December 2021, the Government of Canada signed an agreement with Pfizer for one million treatment cycles of Paxlovid.

A spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Anna Maddison, said in an email on Thursday that “a limited initial supply of 30,000 treatments was made available to provinces and territories in January 2022.”

“To date, approximately 594,800 treatment courses have been distributed to the provinces and territories, Correctional Services Canada, Department of National Defense and Indian Services Canada,” it added.

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Maddison said that “PHAC expects to receive and distribute an additional 398,500 treatment courses between July and September 2022, for a total of 1.5 million treatment courses by December 2022.”

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In the meantime, Maddison said the provinces and territories are responsible for determining how best to implement and manage the available supply of Paxlovid.

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“Many provinces and territories have increased access to Paxlovid by expanding eligibility criteria and facilitating prescription by general practitioners, nurse practitioners and/or dispensing through pharmacies,” it added.

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