Test-to-Treat COVID initiative comes under fire from doctors

Skipping physicians for convenience not the best way for patients to receive care says AMA

The Biden administration rolled out a “Test to Treat” initiative that allows people to get tested for COVID-19 at a local pharmacy, and if positive, to receive antiviral pills on the spot for free.

The plan has come under fire from doctor groups that don’t like to see physicians bypassed for the sake of convenience.

“This approach, though well intentioned in that it attempted to increase access to care for patients without a primary care physician, oversimplifies challenging prescribing decisions by omitting knowledge of a patient’s medical history, the complexity of drug interactions, and managing possible negative reactions,” said Gerald E. Harmon, president of the American Medical Association, in a statement. “For starters, Paxlovid is 88 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death. But it also has six pages of drug interactions, including interactions that may require a patient to hold, change, or reduce doses of other medications.”

The AMA said it is pleased the administration is ramping up the supply of antivirals to give patients more treatment options, but objects to how pharmacies are being set up as the primary point of care.

“Pharmacy-based clinics typically treat simple illnesses such as strep throat,” said Harmon. “Yet, COVID-19 is a complex disease and there are many issues to consider when prescribing COVID-19 antiviral medications. Leaving prescribing decisions this complex in the hands of people without knowledge of a patient’s medical history is dangerous in practice and precedent.”


The administration is launching hundreds of sites nationwide at CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, and community health centers this month.