How To Find Paxlovid And Other Antivirals Near Lexington, KY

As Fayette County and many other areas of Kentucky see elevated levels of COVID-19 communities in the weeks since the holiday season, more residents may be seeking early treatment for a viral infection.

Antiviral medications, such as Paxlovid or Lagevrio, are recommended for certain COVID-19 patients and can help reduce the severity of symptoms and possibly help people recover from the virus more quickly.

Specific medicines are also available for patients with flu, provided they test positive and are treated quickly enough.

Dr. Brooke Hudspeth, an associate professor and chief practice officer at the University of Kentucky’s Pharmacy Practice and Science Department, told the Herald-Leader there are steps you can take to make it easier to access treatments. Here’s what you need to know.

When should you seek antiviral treatment?

Those who are at higher risk for serious illness due to a respiratory virus and who test positive for COVID-19 or the flu should contact their healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss treatment options, Hudspeth said.

Depending on the virus, factors such as age, vaccination status, health problems, or a weakened immune system can affect a person’s level of risk.

For COVID-19, people who are 50 years or older or who have chronic lung disease, heart disease or a weakened immune system are especially at risk.

Higher-risk flu patients include children under the age of two, patients 65 or older, pregnant people, and people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or other health problems.

In addition, those who aren’t necessarily at higher risk but are experiencing severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, should check with their provider about options, Hudspeth said.

COVID-19 antivirals

Paxlovid is the primary antiviral drug given to COVID-19 patients, Hudspeth said, and the window to start treatment is about five days after the onset of symptoms. But the sooner you can start treatment, the better.

Paxlovid is an “investigational drug” used to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and children over the age of 12 and weighing at least 88 pounds, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The antiviral is generally recommended for patients who test positive for COVID-19 and are at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization and death, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“With Paxlovid, it’s still kind of a limited distribution model where the pharmacies work with the government. It’s kind of a distribution process that’s a little bit different from how they get their normal medication,” Hudspeth said.

Because Paxlovid isn’t available everywhere, a supplier can prescribe Paxlovid to a patient and send an electronic prescription to a pharmacy that doesn’t have it. This can cause problems when a patient has already left the doctor’s office and finds that their pharmacy doesn’t have it available.

“Sometimes there’s a gap in that communication link,” Hudspeth said. “So the patient being their own advocate and calling the pharmacy ahead of time is probably best to make sure it’s there and available to them.”

Currently, Paxlovid is available for free to patients with a prescription, but PBS reported in December that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will stop supplying it by mid-2023.

While Paxlovid is currently available for free, it requires a prescription, so depending on your insurance, office visit and testing fees may apply.

Paxlovid interacts with some other drugs, so the FDA advises patients to tell their doctor about any other prescription, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements they are taking. The FDA also recommends that people taking birth control pills use another form of birth control when taking Paxlovid, as it may affect how combined hormonal birth control pills work.

Paxlovid consists of two drugs, nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets. They are taken together twice a day for five days, the FDA says. Dosage may vary for patients with kidney disease or other conditions.

Lagevrio is another antiviral sometimes prescribed for COVID-19 patients. It is not recommended for use during pregnancy, and the FDA recommends that people of childbearing potential use a reliable form of birth control during treatment with Lagevrio and for four days after the last dose.

Those looking for treatment for COVID-19 can use an online locator to find antivirals near them. Hudspeth recommended that people use this locator and online pharmacy screening tools when trying to access the drugs.

The online locator shows test-to-treat options at select Kroger Pharmacy locations in Lexington, as well as the CVS at 2000 Harrodsburg Road.

Flu antiviral medication

Oseltamivir, the generic name for Tamiflu, is FDA-approved for the early treatment of “uncomplicated” flu in people at least two weeks old.

Patients should start taking oseltamivir within one to two days of the onset of symptoms, Hudspeth said, although certain exceptions can be made for those at higher risk of serious illness.

Tamiflu, or its generic form, is usually covered by most health insurance plans, Hudspeth said, but co-pays may apply.

Patients may be able to work with their provider to identify programs that would allow pharmacies to offer the antiviral at a lower cost. Without a discount program or insurance, Oseltamivir typically costs about $160 to $170, Hudspeth said.

This story was reported in response to questions and comments from readers of our Know Your Kentucky project. If you have a question about Kentucky, we’d love to hear from you. Fill out the form below or send an email to [email protected]

This story was originally published January 25, 2023 11:43 am.

Meredith Howard is a service reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat. A graduate of Baylor University, she previously freelanced for the Illinois Times and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

How To Find Paxlovid And Other Antivirals Near Lexington, KY

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