Driven by President Biden’s comprehensive COVID-19 response, there are now more tools than ever before to protect people from the virus, including highly-effective treatments. Over the past 15 months, the Administration has pulled levers across the federal government and deployed resources Congress provided to expedite the development, production, and procurement of COVID-19 treatments. As a result, the U.S. now has several treatments available that can help keep people out of the hospital and save lives.
One of the most effective available treatments is Pfizer’s oral antiviral pill, Paxlovid, which has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by about 90 percent. The U.S. has committed to purchase 20 million treatment courses—more than any other country in the world. Although Paxlovid was initially in short supply after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization, the Administration has worked with Pfizer to accelerate the delivery of these pills, and they are now in ample supply. The President’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan lays out a roadmap for ensuring that these pills, along with other treatments, are available for any American who needs one.
Since December 2021, the Administration has distributed COVID-19 oral antivirals directly to states, Tribes, territories, and community health centers for free. States and territories play an important role in distributing these treatments to health care providers, pharmacies, and other locations, and any doctor can prescribe treatments. In March, as supply began to ramp up, the President announced the Test-to-Treat initiative to help make it easier for people at high risk of severe disease to quickly access oral antiviral treatments. The Test-to-Treat initiative creates additional locations where people can get a COVID-19 test, a visit with a medical provider, and, if needed, free oral antiviral pills—all in one visit.
To date, the Administration has worked with pharmacies, long-term care facilities, community health centers, and other health care settings to establish more than 2,200 Test-to-Treat sites around the country, including sites specifically for military families and veterans. As a result, usage of oral antivirals has more than doubled over the last several weeks.
Today, the Administration is announcing new actions to make these treatments even easier to access and to make sure health care providers and patients know about their safety, efficacy, and availability. These actions will help strengthen and further build the infrastructure to ensure that lifesaving treatments for COVID-19 are quickly distributed around the country, widely available, and easy to access. At the same time, ensuring that this remains the case—and securing more and even better treatments—will require additional funding from Congress.
Today’s actions include:
Nearly doubling the number of places oral antivirals are available in the coming weeks. Right now, oral antivirals are available in about 20,000 locations across the country—including pharmacies, community health centers, hospitals, urgent care centers, and Veterans Affairs clinics, and Department of Defense Medical Treatment Facilities. Now that the United States has ample supply of these treatments, the Administration is making it easier for pharmacies to order antivirals from the federal government. Starting this week, the Administration will allow all pharmacy partners in the federal antiviral pharmacy program—tens of thousands of pharmacy locations nationwide—to order free oral antiviral treatments directly from the federal government. Pharmacies will also continue to be able to receive treatments from state and territorial health departments and through the Test-to-Treat initiative. For many Americans, pharmacies are the most common and convenient place to pick up their prescriptions and receive other forms of health care. Opening ordering to all of these pharmacies will dramatically expand the number of local pharmacies with oral antivirals in stock for patients in their community. The Administration expects that oral antivirals will soon be available in more than 30,000 locations. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work with pharmacy partners to increase availability even further to up to 40,000 sites over the coming weeks—bringing these treatments closer to more Americans.
Launching a new effort to stand up federally-supported Test-to-Treat sites. Building on the current 2,200 Test-to-Treat sites in pharmacies and other clinical settings, the federal government will work with states and jurisdictions to establish additional Test-to-Treat locations with federal support. These sites will co-locate testing, an assessment from a medical provider, and oral antiviral treatments in one convenient stop—launching in partnership with state, Tribal, and territorial governments, and with support and coordination from HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. These sites will launch in select communities in the coming weeks and, as more data comes in, the Administration will determine how federally-supported sites can best be expanded and scaled if needed during any potential future surge in cases. These sites will be targeted to meet demand and increase equitable access to lifesaving COVID-19 treatments and will function in direct collaboration with state and local health agencies. The Administration will also continue working with existing Test-to-Treat pharmacy partners to improve the patient experience, including through telehealth options.
Supporting medical providers with more guidance and tools to understand and prescribe treatments. It is critical that health care providers stay informed about the latest information on effective COVID-19 treatments—including their benefits, contraindications, drug-to-drug interactions, and other side effects—so that they are in a position to quickly prescribe one of these treatments where appropriate. The Administration has been working for months with health care providers around the country to inform them about new treatments, with weekly webinars with state and territorial health officials, health care and medical organizations, as well as biweekly clinical webinars with health care providers, including those who specialize in treating high-risk patients. The Administration will continue to engage the clinical community to broaden awareness and understanding of these treatments and to make sure that health care providers are counseling their patients about these effective treatments, prescribing them when appropriate, and helping patients identify where their prescription can be filled. This includes providing toolkits and resources to help doctors assess whether treatments are appropriate for their patients and additional guidance and outreach to every state, pharmacy chain, and major medical association to increase awareness around eligibility, accessibility, contraindications and prescribing considerations for COVID-19 treatments. To that end, just yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Health Alert Network health advisory to its extensive network of public health officials to provide additional information about the efficacy and availability of these treatments. Building on its ongoing work with electronic health record companies to develop and disseminate information about COVID-19 treatments to providers, the Administration is also calling on these companies to incorporate information about oral antivirals directly into their health records interface. This would make it easier to prompt doctors with information about treatments and locations when interacting with a patient—helping to better integrate the prescription of oral antivirals to patients that need them into doctors’ everyday practice.
Communicating to the American people that safe, effective treatments are widely available. Now that the Administration has made treatments widely available and there are tens of thousands of sites around the country where they can be dispensed, the Administration will ramp up its public awareness and education efforts on COVID-19 treatments. The Administration’s efforts will focus on making sure that people know that COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments must be taken within the first five days of symptom onset and understand their role in reducing the risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19. These efforts build on steps that the Administration has taken in recent weeks to help people access treatments, including the launch of COVID.gov, creating shareable infographics with clear test-and-treat messages, promoting test-and-treat messages on social media, launching the Test-to-Treat locator, and standing up a call center (800-232-0233) to provide help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages.