While COVID-19 cases go down, doctors hoping virus therapeutics go up

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 4:24 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - COVID-19 case numbers are going down, but health officials are looking for COVID-19 treatments to go up.

Doctors said some oral therapeutics for the virus have proven very successful, but the supply is only coming in as a trickle.

Pfizer’s Paxlovid pills have shown to have a nearly 90% efficacy rate in preventing serious illness and death in studies submitted to the FDA for emergency use authorization. The pill regimen, along with others, including a prescription from Merk, received EUA at the end of 2021.

Allocations have not picked up much since then, but health officials say allocations may increase by spring or summer.

“The more tools we have is better to combat this,” City of Memphis COO Doug McGowen said.

The fight against COVID-19 in the Mid-South is starting to turn in our favor. In Shelby County, pandemic indicators across the board are going down. The county is seeing more than 6,000 active cases currently. A week ago there were 11,400.

“We are pretty safe in saying we are toward the tail end of the omicron spike,” Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said.

Here is how the pandemic indicators are dropping: hospitalizations have been decreasing 20% a week. On Sunday there were 438 COVID-19 patients in hospitals in the Memphis Metro area. Average daily cases over seven days was 458 on Thursday. It was more than 900 last week. The reproduction rate and test positivity rate have fallen week over the last week as well. The reproduction rate is at .62 down from .72 last week. This week’s test positivity rate is down to 13%. It was more than 17% last week.

But what a number health officials would like to see go up is our supply of the recently approved COVID-19 pill, Pfizer’s Paxlovid.

The Mid-South first got shipments of the prescription drug at the end of the year after getting FDA emergency use authorization. Arkansas and Mississippi got 480 doses, Tennessee got 1,060.

A month and a half later, the weekly allocations have only increased a few hundred according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In Tennessee, the drug is only available at Walmart pharmacies with a prescription.

“It’s still a trickle at this point,” McGowen said.

“It’s absolutely a blessing that I was able to get that and have that,” patient Jordan Bacon said.

Bacon was prescribed Paxlovid after testing positive for COVID-19 even though he was asymptomatic.

“I ended up testing positive the day I was supposed to go to Baptist East for my bone marrow transplant for leukemia,” Bacon said.

Doctors say Paxlovid is best prescribed in the first days of an infection, and can decrease severity of the illness. Doctors say it is also proving to shorten the length of the infection.

In Bacon’s asymptomatic case, because of his underlying condition, doctors prescribed him the pill regimen.

“The best bet was to fire all guns at it,” Bacon said.

Bacon recovered from COVID-19 and received his bone marrow transplant. He was just released from the hospital following the procedure on Wednesday.

As for Paxlovid, while many are excited about the drug, it has shown to be risky to take with some medications including some blood thinners and antidepressants. The FDA has not approved the drug in patients with liver and kidney conditions.

For more on local COVID-19 testing and treatments as well at the COVID-19 vaccine click here.

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