Test logjams may block Biden's multi-billion dollar bet on Covid pills

Patients should first be tested for Covid in order to obtain a prescription, which must be taken within five days for symptoms to take effect.

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President Joe Biden's plan to spend more than $ 7 billion on new antiretroviral drugs to treat Covid as an important tool in the fight against the epidemic could be complicated by detailed testing.

The pills, manufactured by Pfizer and Merck and approved this week by the Food and Drug Administration, have been shown to reduce the risk of hospital admissions and Covid deaths. The U.S. has secured enough drug contracts per drug manufacturer to treat about 15 million people next year.

The medication needs to be taken within the first five days of symptoms for it to work properly, which means patients will need to be tested, get a direct result and get a prescription from a doctor within a few days.

Currently, patients in areas with a high rate of cases wait a few days to get test results, and many find it difficult to get quick home tests. While the need for testing has increased due to holiday travel, it is also driven by an increase in cases, which increased by 25 percent last week.

Demand for testing is expected to grow. Employers will be required under Biden’s immunization mandate to ensure that their non-vaccinated employees are tested weekly, and schools will rely on testing to keep children in the classroom.

Demand for testing may be slowing down as Merck and Pfizer pills become widely available in early 2022, although the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington plans that the number of daily tests will continue to grow in April. The institute estimates that Covid infection will increase in February with 2.8 million daily infections, and the number of cases will take another two months to return to normal. The agency has no idea when the charges could return to pre-omicron levels.

Merck will launch 3 million of its drug courses in January and Pfizer plans to have only 265,000 medical courses available in January, according to White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients. In clinical trials, Pfizer's treatment has been shown to be more effective than Merck's in preventing hospitalization in high-risk groups — 89 percent compared with 30 percent.

With a limited amount of testing and more people expected to be infected in the coming months, Ali Mokdad, chief of public health at the University of Washington, said the US would need to keep tests for certain groups, such as those at high risk of illness. very sick who need to be tested to find one of the antiretroviral drugs.

"Let's keep them tested because they need treatment and they need to decide what to do, we have to be careful how we use the test," said Mokdad. "Use it to travel or get back to work or especially if you need to get antiretrovirals. We may need to check the budget test, we may need to be hospitalized on a budget."

On Thursday, the National Institutes of Health's Covid-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel issued interim recommendations on how doctors should prioritize who should receive antiviral pills.

"Challenges to service delivery or service delivery may make it impossible to provide the treatment available to all eligible patients," the team said in a statement. If there is a limited availability, the panel said, "patients at high risk of clinical improvement should be prioritized to receive these treatments."

In a New York district, emergency care provider CityMD said Wednesday the average PCR test count was five to seven days, longer than usual due to an increase in national laboratory tests. Residents of Washington, D.C., have been told that their PCR results could take up to five days from the city-controlled area. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said on Wednesday he had to wait more than 56 hours to get the result of his examination.

The federal government is also planning to open more than 20,000 free testing centers of the organization that are already in operation.

That could help reduce the long lines that have been set up at many testing centers but will not address the long wait for results as the labs are full of applications.

Currently, state health labs say they are close to how many tests they can perform and will not be able to meet the surgery nationwide, said Marcus Plescia, medical officer at the Association of State and Territorial Health Official.

"What we hear, most importantly, the state health labs, do not have a lot of surgical power," Plescia said. “Any surgery will have to come from the commercial sector. Government laboratories, many of them, raise the issue that the federal government will not look to them as a major source of strength for major surgery. ”

Commercial labs, which have been processing many of Covid's national tests, are beginning to see delays given the growing demand in some areas, such as New York and New Jersey.

Most Quest Diagnostics' Covid tests are done within one day but people in some regions may have to wait longer, said company spokesman Kim Gorode.

"We continue to find a surprising demand for Covid-19 tests," Gorode said. “We continue to perform and report most Covid-19 tests within one day; In some places, though, people may have more than one day. ”