Bureaucracy Scuttles Release Of Antiviral Pills

Bureaucracy Scuttles Release Of Antiviral Pills

Just more than two years since the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in the U.S., scientists have created a powerful tool against the virus.

The problem: It’s hard to get.

“A flurry of regulatory, testing and logistical issues is complicating the rollout, potentially requiring people with symptoms to make multiple stops at doctors’ offices or testing sites within the five-day window when the drugs are recommended,” Politico reported on Sunday.

The antiviral COVID-19 pills “are less expensive and more practical than the single antibody treatment shown to be effective against the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, which has to be administered in a clinical setting. The key is, a series of pills must be started within days of the onset of symptoms — and after a test confirms a Covid-19 infection,” the liberal political website said.

“The pills’ emergency use authorizations are written so that prescribing power is limited to doctors and certain health care workers often found in a physician’s practice. That could create an access merry-go-round where patients may need to visit a testing site, a doctor’s office and then a participating pharmacy just to get the drugs — a prospect one state health official said was akin to ‘sending you on a goose chase to try and find these meds,’” the site said.

The report comes after the CEO of the first company to win approval for a COVID-19 vaccine said he hopes the virus will be “controlled” by annual vaccinations and pills to treat illness when people get sick.

Albert Bourla, head of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, said on CNBC that annual COVID-19 shots could become the norm, just like yearly flu shots.

“We will have perfectly normal lives, with just injection maybe once a year. And the pill in case we are sick will make it more flu like rather than life-threatening disease,” he said. But Bourla added: “Two doses of the vaccine offers very limited protection, if any.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pill late last year, but so far it is not widely available.

Bourla’s comments mirror those of Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, which also produces a vaccine. Bancel also told CNBC that he sees additional booster shots as necessary to battle the virus. He also said his company is “working very actively on an Omicron-specific vaccine as a booster” and “discussing with public health leaders around the world to decide what we think is the best strategy for a potential booster for fall of 2022.”

“We believe it will contain omicron mRNAs,” he said, referring to the genetic technology used in Moderna’s vaccine. “But do we need to have any other components? That has to be discussed, because we need to be careful to stay ahead of the virus.”

The risk of winding up in the intensive care unit or dying from the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is 83% less compared to the Delta strain, according to a recent study. In addition, the risk of hospitalization or death for an Omicron infection is 65% less than Delta, the Canadian study found.

Despite the seemingly good news, the researchers still had a warning: “While severity is likely to be reduced, the absolute number of hospitalizations and impact on the healthcare system may nevertheless be significant due to the increased transmissibility of Omicron.”

Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to [email protected]

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