Hospitals decry scant supply of COVID-19 antivirals

Insufficient supply is preventing COVID-19 antiviral pills from being game changers for hospitalized patients, The Washington Post reported Jan. 4.

On Dec. 22, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for Paxlovid, Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral pill regimen. And on Dec. 23, the agency issued an emergency use authorization for molnupiravir, Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill.

The pills' authorizations were highly anticipated, as they have the potential to prevent hospitalizations and avert further strain on the healthcare system amid a nationwide surge in cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant. However, physicians told The Washington Post the limited supply of the pills means it's unlikely they will reduce the strain on hospitals.

The U.S. has purchased 10 million courses of Paxlovid and 3 million of molnupiravir. On Jan. 4, the U.S. said it will purchase an additional 10 million courses of Paxlovid. About 65,000 courses of Paxlovid and 300,000 courses of molnupiravir have been distributed to states, according to the report.

Pfizer spokesperson Kit Longley told The Washington Post the drugmaker expected to manufacture more than 180,000 courses of Paxlovid by the end of 2021 and up to 120 million by the end of 2022. The spokesperson also said it takes five to six months to produce the pill's active pharmaceutical ingredient.

Merck spokesperson Melissa Moody told The Washington Post the drugmaker expects to make 1 million courses of molnupiravir over the next few weeks.


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