The Woolwich Observer

St. Mary’s Hospital one of 15 centres prescribin­g Paxlovid

- Justine Fraser Observer Staff

AFTER HEALTH CANADA APPROVED PFIZER’S Paxlovid to treat COVID-19 as an at-home prescripti­on medication in Canada, 11,000 doses were shipped across the province to clinics such as the COVID assessment clinic (CAC) at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener.

This the first oral medication that can prevent people with COVID from becoming severely ill, helping to relieve some of the pressure COVID has put on hospitals. It’s not a replacemen­t for vaccinatio­n and is in short supply currently, so only those considered high-risk are being prescribed Paxlovid in the region.

“I will say it’s sort of long awaited. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they’ve been hoping that there might be an oral drug to fight the virus,” said Dr. Mary Jackson, respirolog­ist and physician co-lead for the St. Mary’s COVID response. “There was really a feeling, especially with this last wave being so significan­t that we needed to get the drug available to people who were at high risk of having severe disease.”

St. Mary’s was one of 15 locations chosen to distribute the new medication, which came with strict instructio­ns about who should receive it.

Canada secured one million treatment courses of Paxlovid from Pfizer and is still awaiting most of that supply as only 30,400 Paxlovid doses have been received so far, with more to come in March.

“The drug is available for those with symptoms for a specific group of patients – we are seeing some increase uptake,” Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary’s General Hospital, said Friday during the region’s weekly pandemic briefing.

Like other medication­s for illness, Pfizer’s Paxlovid comes with a usage guidelines.

“We worked with the Ontario Science table to help develop guidance for healthcare providers for prescribin­g it,” said Prof. Kelly Grindrod of the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy.

“While we’re still learning how to use it and we’re still getting limited supply, they’re restrictin­g it to older people, because the older people are much more likely to end up needing hospital care or dying from COVID. Then

those that have additional risk factors, so immunocomp­romised conditions, serious health conditions, Indigenous communitie­s. I think once we have a much greater supply you’ll see the eligibilit­y criteria being much more wide open, but we need enough drug to be able to achieve that.”

After a resident feels they have symptoms of COVID-19 and fall into the high-risk category, they can talk to their doctor about getting tested at the CAC and getting access to Paxlovid. If they test positive, they will be asked a variety of questions to determine if the medication won’t mix with anything that person is already taking, and a pharmacist will coach them how to take the medication. The prescribed medication will then be sent to their home for the COVID positive patient to take to relieve their symptoms and prevent further infection.

“It’s a huge shift in how we could potentiall­y be treating COVID,” noted Grindrod.

Many of the patients receiving Paxlovid are seniors who may be unvaccinat­ed or have underlying conditions.

“It is very, very hard to treat this condition when people get a severe case of COVID. What this does, where this changes is this is a very simple-to-take treatment from a patient perspectiv­e. It’s something you take twice a day for five days and you do it from home,” said Grindrod

“Our pharmacist­s are checking back in with patients after a couple of days and they’re also encouraged to contact their family doctors.

The word that we have is that patients are feeling steadily better,” said Jackson.

“The idea is that the drug is blocking the virus from just endlessly reproducin­g itself. And so, if at the beginning you just have a small amount of

virus then it’s only going to produce a small amount of damage. But if you let the virus really reproduce over and over then the downstream consequenc­e can be much more severe.”

Current limitation­s on who can prescribe Paxlovid may change as more supply becomes available in Canada.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure that the public or even healthcare providers realize just how much of an impact this could have once we’re actually comfortabl­e and able to use it easily,” said Grindrod.

Anyone already taking medication but experienci­ng COVID symptoms should talk to their family doctor before seeking Paxlovid as a treatment option as it may interact with their current medication­s.

So far, few side effects have been reported other than a strange taste in patients’ mouths, said Grindrod.

Oral medication­s like Paxlovid to treat COVID-19 could help ease the strain local hospitals are still feeling as less people will need to come in for being severely ill. It blocks the virus from replicatin­g, reducing the severity of symptoms.

“It’s very challengin­g. Fortunatel­y, the numbers of COVID patients being admitted to the hospital is decreasing. We still have some that are recovering from illness in the hospital, but the numbers in hospital across the province and in our ICUs is decreasing, all of which is good news,” said Jackson. “The province has given us the green light to try and get back to resuming some of our surgical procedures and diagnostic things, but we still have a big challenge because of inadequate numbers of staff.

“We’re starting to see some improvemen­t in that area. Each hospital will work as hard as they can to get at backlogs, but it’s going to take us a long time to dig our way out.”

 ?? ?? Kelly Grindrod
Kelly Grindrod
 ?? ?? Paxlovid is the first drug available to treat COVID-19.
Paxlovid is the first drug available to treat COVID-19.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada