As the nation’s death toll from COVID-19 inches towards one million, the Biden administration is intensifying efforts to inform clinicians and ordinary Americans about treatments for the disease, and to make testing and treatment more widely available.
In a White House fact sheet released Tuesday, the administration outlined the latest steps the government is taking to distribute medications for treating COVID and inform people about their availability. These include:
- Making it easier for pharmacies to obtain oral antiviral treatments. It will do this by allowing pharmacies that are partners in the federal antiviral pharmacy program to order free oral antiviral treatments directly from the federal government. Doing so will increase from the number of locations where antivirals are available from 20,000 to 30,000, according to the statement.
- Working with states and other jurisdictions to increase the number of Test-to-Treat sites. These will provide COVID-19 testing, assessment by medical professionals and distribution of oral antiviral treatments in the same location. The sites will be established in partnership with state, Tribal and territorial governments with support and coordination from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Increasing public awareness of, and education about COVID-19 treatments. The White House fact sheet says administration efforts will focus on making sure people know that COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments must be taken within the first five days of symptom onset and help them understand what they can do to reduce the risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19. These efforts build on other steps the administration has taken recently, such as launching the COVID.gov website, promoting test-and-treat messages on social media, and establishing a call center to provide help in English, Spanish and more than 150 other languages.
- Giving medical providers more guidance and tools for understanding and prescribing treatments. According to the fact sheet, earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Health Alert Network health advisory to public health officials with additional information about the efficacy and availability of oral antiviral treatments. In addition, the administration is asking electronic health records companies to incorporate information about oral antivirals directly into health records interfaces. Doing so would make it easier to integrate the prescribing of oral antivirals into doctors’ everyday practice.
Responding to the White House fact sheet, a spokesperson for the Electronic Health Record Assocation (EHRA) said in a statement, “Just as we have for clinical alerts in general, EHRA members have worked closely with their clients, the CDC, and other agencies throughout the pandemic to ensure that, as new COVID-19 vaccines and treatments become available, clinicians are provided with the most appropriate alerts and reminders in the right context within the EHR. The EHRA continues to work with key stakeholders to increase awareness and best practices as we work toward reducing the impact of the pandemic.”