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Monday, August 15, 2022

Can Testing Keep Up With the Arrival of Antiviral Pills?

It is possible that, before the end of the year, Americans who get the coronavirus may be able to obtain an effective therapy from their local drugstore.

The Food and Drug Administration of the United States is now reviewing two novel antiviral medications, both of which have showed promise in avoiding hospitalizations and fatalities in persons at high risk for severe Covid-19.

One of the medications, which was produced by the pharmaceutical giant Merck, might be approved for use under emergency circumstances as soon as this week. Another, manufactured by Pfizer, is expected to follow fast after.

Despite the fact that the medications are not a substitute for immunisation, they have the potential to significantly increase access to therapies for a disease that continues to claim the lives of 1,000 Americans every day.

It should be noted that the tablets, which work by interfering with virus replication, are intended to be taken as soon as possible following the onset of symptoms. Fully realising their potential will almost certainly rely on prompt and reliable Covid testing — something that the United States has failed to do since the outbreak of the epidemic. Testing for the virus, particularly throughout the summer and autumn of 2020, has required a lengthy wait in line, followed by a week-long wait for results, which has been the case on occasion.

Many advances have been made since then, and the supply of the new pharmaceuticals is expected to remain exceedingly restricted for the foreseeable future. For example, Merck expects to have enough of its medicine on hand to treat slightly more than 3 million Americans by the end of the month of February.

The new antivirals might, however, put the United States’ still-fragile testing system to the test, according to industry analysts. And authorities must make certain that rapid and inexpensive viral testing are accessible in the neighbourhoods that have been most heavily struck by Covid’s ravages.

Currently, the most effective therapies for Covid available in the United States are monoclonal antibody medicines, which bind to the virus and prevent it from infecting the cells they come into contact with. These therapies, on the other hand, are often provided intravenously by medical professionals. This may create logistical difficulties for hospitals, which are often overworked and understaffed, as well as for patients, who may be unable to travel to clinics or infusion sites due to transportation issues.

Experts agreed that a vigorous communications campaign would be required to accompany the introduction of the medications in order to ensure that people are aware that treatments are available — and that success would be dependent on early testing and diagnosis.

In the past, Dr. Bilinski said, “we’ve seen again and time again, both before and during the epidemic, that the United States health-care system can couple these tremendous achievements in biotechnology with lacklustre deployment methods in terms of availability and price.”

It has been obvious for some time that Covid’s toll has been uneven. Low-income employees, for example, have been at particularly high risk of contracting the virus, and Black and Latino Americans have been more likely than white Americans to die as a result of it.

According to Dr. Bilinski, depending on how successfully authorities handle access hurdles, antiviral tablets “have the potential to either lessen or perpetuate the inequities that we’ve observed in severe Covid outcomes.”

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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