COVID-19 pills in low supply in U.S. due to months-long manufacturing time – National

There are shortages of two new COVID-19 pills that were supposed to be an important weapon against the pandemic in the United States, and played little role in fighting the omicron infection wave.

The problem is partly that production continues to increase and that it can take five to eight months to manufacture the drugs.

While supply is expected to improve dramatically in the coming months, doctors are now clamoring for the pill, not only because Omicron is causing an explosion in cases, but because two of the antibody drugs that were once the treatment are not working as well. against the variable.

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“This must be a really exciting time because we now have very potent antiviral pills,” said Erin McCreary, a pharmacist and administrator at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Instead, this appears to be the most difficult and messiest extension of the epidemic.”

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The pills — and other COVID-19 drugs — are carefully rationed, and are for the most vulnerable patients.

“January is going to be an awful month with a million cases a day,” said Dr. Myron Cohen, a University of North Carolina virologist. “Most people do well, but we have to pick the ones who won’t and give them the medicines we have.”

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized the two pills from Pfizer and Merck late last month based on studies showing they reduce the risk of serious illness and death when given soon after symptoms appear. They are the first COVID-19 treatments that patients can take at home, and so could reduce the burden on hospitals.


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The role that antiviral drugs can play in the fight against COVID-19


The role antiviral drugs can play in the fight against COVID-19 – Dec 6, 2021

The United States did not procure in large quantities beforehand as it did with vaccines.

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The Pfizer pill, Paxlovid, is much better than the Merck pill, but because of the six to eight months it takes to manufacture, the company says it can only save about 250,000 treatment cycles by the end of this month.

The US has ordered enough Paxlovid to process 20 million people, but the first 10 million orders won’t be delivered until June.

Jeff Zentes, the White House coordinator for COVID-19, said this week that the government has teamed up with Pfizer to help speed birth control pill development for several months, and that officials are continuing to work with the company to find ways to boost production.

Pfizer said it is adding capacity: “We expect to use our strong manufacturing capabilities and our extensive supplier network to continue rapidly improving production.”

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Merck’s pills, molnoperavir, were produced in larger prepackaged quantities. Manufacturing takes six months, although the company says it can be compressed into five months if necessary.

But the final test showed that the drug was much less effective than Pfizer’s pills and that it carried significant risks, including the possibility of birth defects when taken by pregnant women. As a result, it is considered the option of last resort under federal guidelines.

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Merck said it has delivered 900,000 cycles of the drug and is on track to ship the 3 million ordered in the United States by the end of the month.

Since last month, the government has sent states enough Pfizer pills to treat 164,000 people, allocating them by population. This approach is heavily criticized by some countries with large numbers of issues.


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Merck begins manufacturing COVID-19 antiviral tablets in Whitby, Ontario.


Merck begins manufacturing COVID-19 antiviral pills in Whitby, Ontario – December 6, 2021

Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said the amount allocated to New York – enough to treat about 20,000 people – was insufficient.

“We need more of these drugs to make it change the course of the epidemic and reduce hospitalization,” she said.

State guidelines generally recommend doctors to prioritize medications for those most at risk, including cancer patients, transplant recipients, and people with lung disease or who are pregnant. New York’s guidelines also recommend that some racial and ethnic minorities be prioritized, given the high rates of severe illness and death.

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Countries distribute grain differently.

In Michigan, all initial shipments went to 10 pharmacies in the hardest-hit areas. Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas, and many other states have distributed the pills more widely, with at least one pharmacy in each county carrying the drug.

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Despite strict prescription guidelines, some patients have managed to obtain the pills through luck and perseverance.

Craig Campbell, a website manager from Desert Hot Springs, California, began leaving messages with his doctor immediately after he tested positive for COVID-19 and developed a 101-degree fever. Despite his lack of underlying health conditions, he was soon able to obtain a prescription.

The only pharmacy dispensing the drug was over an hour’s drive away, so Campbell had a friend bring it for him.

“I felt a little privileged in a way,” he said. “The odds of him landing on my board in time were extraordinary.”

At the same time, there is a shortage of antibody drugs, and injected or injected drugs that can lead to death and hospitalization. Only one of them, from GlaxoSmithKline, appears to be effective against Omicron, and it is also legalized.

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Canada signs agreements on 1.5 million cycles of Pfizer, Merck COVID-19 antiviral pills


Canada signs agreements for 1.5 million cycles of antiviral pills from Pfizer and Merck COVID-19 – December 3, 2021

Federal officials limit its shipments to about 50,000 doses a week. The government announced this week that it will buy an additional 600,000 doses, on top of the 400,000 purchased in November.

At the UPMC hospital system in Pennsylvania, staff can treat fewer than 1,000 patients a week with the antibodies, down from 4,000 patients previously in the pandemic.

Doctors and nurses across the United States have developed sophisticated means of determining who should get rare drugs, based on patients’ symptoms, their underlying medical risks, where they live and whether they are healthy enough to travel for the infusion.

“What do we have at hand?” The first question is the first question, said Dr. Greg Shrank of the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Of those treatments, which is the most effective and how can we target it to the people we know are most at risk?”

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The increasingly complex picture of treatment comes as tired and frustrated hospital staff try to manage the rising admissions.

As of Sunday, nearly 128,000 Americans were in hospital with COVID-19, surpassing an all-time high of about 125,000 last January. While fewer COVID-19 patients now require intensive care, the boom is pushing hospitals to breaking point.

Schrank said that given this threat, Pfizer’s pills arrived at the right time.

“It’s not going to turn the tide in the total number of cases, but it could really help mitigate the impact on hospitals,” he said.

© 2022 Canadian Press

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