FDA revision allows pharmacists to prescribe COVID treatment pill

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday revised its emergency use authorization of Paxlovid, allowing pharmacists to prescribe the anti-viral drug used to treat COVID.

Previously, only physicians and COVID test sites were able to prescribe Paxlovid. The drug is meant for people at risk of becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus.

Katherine Yang, Clinical Professor of Pharmacy at UCSF School of Pharmacy and an Infectious Diseases Clinical Pharmacist at UCSF Medical Center, welcomes the change by the FDA.

"It’s great because we can spread out our healthcare system a little bit more and hopefully reach out to people who need it," she said.

Yang said patients with risk factors for severe COVID, like obesity, age, hypertension or dementia, are eligible for the drug. She advised people to bring blood tests results and a list of their medications to their local pharmacy for a prescription.

"Paxlovid can have drug interaction with existing medications or with over the counter products or with herbal medications," she said. "It’s very, very important you bring your list into the pharmacy, so the pharmacist can check it to make sure there are no dangerous interactions."

Paxlovid is taken over the course of five days, with three pills taken in the morning and three pills taken at night.

Mark Chekal of Berkeley is currently on Paxlovid. He tested positive for COVID on Monday and is in quarantine on the East Coast. Chekal texted his doctor immediately and was able to get a prescription for Paxlovid because he is immunocompromised.

"I was able to work with him right away to get Paxlovid from a pharmacy, and I was on it in 90 minutes," he said.

Despite being fully vaccinated, having three boosters and wearing a mask, Chekal caught COVID after traveling for a family memorial service. He is experiencing some of the most common side effects from the drug, which are diarrhea and "Paxlovid mouth."

"I have the metal taste in my mouth that people with chemo often get, which is not great… but it’s much better than having severe COVID or being hospitalized I guarantee you," Chekal said.

He advised people to have a plan if they get COVID, no matter how many precautions they may take.

"It’s kind of like we need to be ready for earthquakes and fires; I feel like we need to have a COVID plan and I had one, thank goodness," he added.

Paxlovid must be taken within five days of symptoms. After you finish the dosage, health experts recommend you should still wear a mask if you're testing positive for COVID.