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New Pfizer COVID Drug Aimed at Reducing Hospitalizations Arrives at Hartford HealthCare

December 28, 2021

With COVID infection rates at their highest level of the pandemic, some possible relief has arrived to Hartford HealthCare that should help in reducing hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus. On Monday, Hartford HealthCare received its first shipment of Pfizer’s PAXLOVID™ — a medication for those infected with COVID that was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in a study by the company. The drug’s arrival came on the same day the CDC shortened the recommended time for isolation for those diagnosed with COVID from 10 days to five days if asymptomatic followed by five days of wearing a mask while around others. “The big advantage with this drug is that it can be taken at home and is an additional medication that can treat patients with high risk factors,” said Eric Arlia, vice president of pharmacy at Hartford HealthCare. Arlia said Hartford HealthCare has received enough of the drug for 140 patients. It could be prescribed to patients as early as today, he said. It will be distributed evenly between Hartford Hospital and St. Vincent’s Medical Center pharmacy, and initially will only be available to COVID patients at high risk of complications, including those who are severely immunocompromised, those with comorbidities like diabetes and congestive heart failure, and for some older adults who test positive for COVID. Patients will be prescribed PAXLOVID through their primary care providers. “This medication can possibly be a game changer in keeping people out of the hospital and keeping them from dying [from COVID],” said Ulysses Wu, MD, chief of infectious diseases for Hartford HealthCare. “But we don’t want people to substitute this medication for vaccinations. This does not prevent you from getting COVID and it does not prevent you from spreading COVID to other people. Vaccinations and boosters are still very, very important.” PAXLOVID requires a five day treatment regimen that includes two separate pills taken daily. While the Food and Drug Administration has authorized PAXLOVID’s usage, the cocktail of drugs has caused some adverse reactions when mixed with some medications including statins, blood thinners and some anti-depressants. Arlia says this is not uncommon with any new drug on the market. “It does have a fair amount of drug interactions based on the way it’s metabolized. It’s important that the providers who are prescribing it know the full medication profile of perspective patients,” said Arlia. “Through our COVID triage center we will have a group of providers who are well-versed in the drug’s interactions. Like any new medication, we will partner with our providers to make sure it is administered safely.” Wu said PAXLOVID is another tool to help prevent hospitalizations from COVID. “It will definitely help with hospital capacity once we have enough medication to make a dent,” Wu said.