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Health experts urge planning when it comes to a covid-19 infection and therapeutics

The pill may interact with other drugs, so it's important to communicate with your doctor.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 6:11 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - With Covid-19 cases rising in Wisconsin, health experts urge Wisconsinites to plan ahead when it comes to potential therapeutics.

“People should be aware that the risk of getting exposed to the virus is much higher than it was a couple of months ago,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

As we move into yet another phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Westergaard wants people to have a plan in place when they get a positive covid test result back.

“Now importantly, even if someone becomes exposed or infected, we have more tools that can get people feeling better more quickly and prevent the risk of hospitalization,” said Westergaard.

In fact, the White House’s Covid Response Coordinator said they’ve seen a big increase in the use of an oral, antiviral drug called Paxlovid.

“And what we have seen, I think, is a dramatic increase in the use of Paxlovid -- about four-fold increase -- just in the last month. And our latest estimates are that about 20,000 prescriptions of Paxlovid are being given out every single day,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator.

Bellin Health Pharmacist, Andrew Cohen, said he’s also fielded more questions about the drug.

“This is very timely, very important because we have seen here at Bellin in the last two to three weeks a significant uprise in the number of questions we have from our medical providers to the pharmacy team and also patient calls coming in. So, there’s definitely the correlation between the upswing and the need to get these therapeutics,” said Cohen.

“We want everyone to understand that the new normal for Covid-19 is that if you’re at high risk and you test positive, you should get an antiviral medication,” said Dr. Westergaard.

Paxlovid needs to be taken within 5 days of the start of your symptoms, so testing is crucial.

If you do an at-home test and it’s positive, call your provider to let them know and they can decide whether a Paxlovid prescription is right based on medical history.

Although the drug is widely available right now, Cohen said Paxlovid may not play well with the medications you take daily, which is something the pharmacist can help figure out.

“Many patients have interacting medications that require a change in their current therapy,” said Cohen. “There’s some which exclude you right away and there’s some which your physician or medical provider can work with the pharmacist to modify. For example, if you’re taking certain blood thinners or on other certain medications … we can hold those medications for a time period while you’re on the Paxlovid and then restart them.”

Paxlovid is an oral medication that can be used to treat mild to moderate COVID cases.

If you do not have a provider, the federal government has set up ‘Test to Treat’ sites where you can get a test and if it’s positive, receive therapeutics if applicable. However, Cohen urges caution because these sites may not have access to your full medical history.

“Often those pharmacies don’t have complete medication lists, retail pharmacies don’t all sync together,” said Cohen.

Cohen said the best thing to do right now is to have a plan with your provider if you test positive in the future.

“Don’t wait to be caught off guard. Think ahead about what you could do. If you’re unsure, message the office and make sure that it gets the provider thinking about a plan ahead of time … so that they can quickly expedite a review of your medication chart and be able to get you the therapeutics that you need,” said Cohen.

It's no longer "if" you'll get COVID-19 but "when." How to prepare for a positive test, including prescriptions for early antiviral intervention.

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