N.B. pharmacists can now prescribe Paxlovid COVID-19 treatment

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Paxlovid is Canada’s first oral antiviral treatment for mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults who do not require hospitalization and are at high risk of progressing to serious illness. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images - image credit)
Paxlovid is Canada’s first oral antiviral treatment for mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults who do not require hospitalization and are at high risk of progressing to serious illness. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images - image credit)

New Brunswick has expanded access to the oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid by authorizing pharmacists to assess patients and prescribe the drug.

Until now, New Brunswickers had to see a physician or nurse practitioner within five days of the onset of symptoms to find out if they were eligible for the treatment.

"The change is intended to make it easier for eligible patients to access this option," the Department of Health said in a news release Thursday.

Eligibility is still limited to people who have recently tested positive for COVID-19, are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms, and are considered at risk of severe outcomes from the virus, according to the news release.

People may be at higher risk of severe outcomes if they are immunocompromised, have chronic medical conditions or are a senior, it says.

The drug must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms. A full course of treatment consists of 30 pills over five days.

The department confirmed last week it was "examining ways to improve access to the oral antiviral" and would have more details to share this week.

The change follows a collaboration with the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists and the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association to establish a new assessment and prescribing option for the treatment, Thursday's release said.

Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 per cent in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19, compared to a placebo during its clinical trial, according to Pfizer.

Paxlovid does not stop people from getting COVID-19 and is not a substitute for vaccination, the province's COVID-19 website advises.