Family’s scramble to find COVID drug Paxlovid for their ailing dad highlights challenges with access

From the Toronto Star article

When Derek McGivern’s dad tested positive for COVID-19, he knew the clock was ticking.

Due to multiple medical issues, his 70-something father was at risk, and McGivern knew the antiviral pill Paxlovid — which must be taken within five days of the first symptoms — could help keep him out of the hospital.

“Every hour that goes by, you’re closer to that limit,” said McGivern over the phone from Wallaceburg, Ont., near Chatham. “And that’s extremely frustrating — because no one knew how to get him what he needed.”

With COVID cases soaring in Ontario — reaching an estimated 100,000 new infections a day, according to wastewater readings — Paxlovid is being touted by medical experts as a game changer in the province’s pandemic response, a key tool to help protect those most at risk.

But in recent weeks, physicians and vulnerable patients have been struggling to access the medication and are urging the province to ramp up education and outreach efforts and to make Paxlovid more widely available.

“What strikes me is how many people don’t realize they would qualify for these medications if they had COVID. And, even if they did realize they were eligible, what to do and where to go is not clear … And it varies by region,” said Dr. Tara Kiran, a family physician at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital.

“It is a big problem. We need a public education campaign.”

As of March 31, about 400 courses of Paxlovid had been given out in Ontario, with an additional 755 distributed to hospitals. The province, which had previously stated it had about 40,000 courses from the federal government, would not provide the Star with updated figures Friday.

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