As Omicron spreads across the United States, there is a shortage of new Covid drugs

As Omicron spreads across the United States, there is a shortage of new Covid drugs

So far, the drugs are only used for patients at greatest risk due to their scarcity.

New treatments for premature Covid-19 are now beginning to arrive in pharmacies in New York and elsewhere, but remain in short supply, according to a representative of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“I know patients who have actually received outpatient prescriptions in New York City” from Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid, said Aaron Glatt, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside, New York, Thursday in an interview .

Doctors are eagerly awaiting the new drug, as highly transmissible omicron is spreading across the United States and the world, leading to record-breaking cases in many regions. While the new variant generally seems less dangerous than previous strains, the large number of cases threatens health systems.

Pollovid and Merck & Co.’s molnupiravir have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to keep non-hospitalized high-risk patients from needing hospitalization. So far, they work better against omicron than antibody therapies from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co., which were approved for the same purpose.

Also still a very scarce commodity: sotrovimab, the only monoclonal antibody known to act against the omicron variant. The supplies of the infused drug from GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Vir Biotechnology Inc. is also expected to get better in the coming weeks, Glatt said.

Paxlovid beat the other options in updated guidelines issued Thursday by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. In order of preference for the treatment of non-hospitalized patients at high risk for severe Covid, the guidelines also listed sotrivimab, followed by Gilead Sciences Inc.’s infused belt divir and lastly molnupiravir.

The Merck drug should only be used when the other options cannot be, according to the guidelines. Molnupiravir works by inducing genetic defects, and the FDA has recommended that it be used in people younger than 18 years or those who are pregnant or likely to become pregnant.

For now, the drugs are only used for patients at highest risk because of their scarcity, Glatt said. Pfizer has said that under a federal contract, it expects to have courses with Paxlovid for only 180,000 patients by 2021, but enough for millions next year.

Israel received its first shipment of Paxlovid on Thursday as part of an agreement with Pfizer to ship about 90,000 pills. Preliminary data suggest that it reduces the risk of hospitalization by almost 90%; molnupiravir also appears to be effective, but much less so, reducing the risk of hospitalization or death by about 30%.

The drugs may not be widely available in the United States now, but in the coming weeks – after holiday plans return to normal – supplies should be improved, Glatt said.

(With the exception of the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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