Paxlovid use ebbs amid lack of funds, unclear rebound risk

Millions of Paxlovid packets haven't been used, which could be tied to COVID-19 rebound risks, less federal funds and diminishing public concern about the pandemic, according to an article published Jan. 3 in Nature

In July, data from life science analytics company Airfinity showed that supply of Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral drug — which rapidly dominated the COVID-19 drug scene after its emergency use authorization — had 70 million packets of its 120 million capacity in storage. Of the 10 million packets sold to the U.S., more than 3 million have gone unused, according to Nature

Physicians have prescribed the drug in about 13 percent of new U.S. COVID-19 cases, according to Airfinity data cited by Nature. From January through November, there have been 46,564,722 new COVID-19 infections in the U.S. since Paxlovid was first delivered, and 853,686 of those cases are "known treatment uptake" — meaning 1.83 percent of most U.S. cases in 2022 used Paxlovid. 

There are multiple factors that could be playing into the falling use of Paxlovid. The risk of symptoms rebounding and another positive test popping up days after taking the treatment is still unclear — most research says the risk is low, but there's no consensus yet

There's also the case of dwindling federal funding for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments as most pharmaceutical companies and providers expect the COVID-19 public health emergency to end this spring. Plus, there's a nasty aftertaste coined as "Paxlovid mouth." 

The FDA first authorized the five-day, two-drug regimen for people at high risk for COVID-19 in late 2021 before later expanding its emergency use label for moderate risk as well. So far, the U.S. has covered the cost, with the most recent shipment costing $530 per packet, but it's likely to enter the public market this year.


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