Infectious Disease

Hospitals ration COVID-19 pills and IV fluids as cases surge

HealthDay News – It’s the ultimate irony: There are more COVID-19 treatments now than at any point during the pandemic, but the skyrocketing caseload of the emerging Omicron variant could mean it’s inaccessible, when it is needed most.

Doctors and health systems are once again in the difficult position of rationing supplies to meet the needs of people in the direst of situations, the New York Times reported. Adding to the dilemma is that not all IV fluids and pills intended to treat people with COVID-19 work well against the Omicron variant.

To deal with supply shortages, healthcare providers are developing algorithms to determine who is being treated. Some providers only have a few dozen treatment courses left for the patients who have yet to come through their door. Some give some patients vitamins instead of the approved medications. Among those who refuse the treatments are those who are at high risk of complications but have been vaccinated, The Times reported.

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Staff are rushing to develop algorithms to help them ration their supplies of patients while also addressing staffing shortages, Kelly Gebo, MD, an infectious disease and epidemiology specialist at Johns Hopkins University, told The Times. “It’s demoralizing for healthcare workers when we can’t provide optimal care with limited resources,” Gebo said.

Monoclonal antibodies given intravenously have been the primary treatment for newly infected patients. However, the two most common species do not seem to keep omicron in check. The only monoclonal antibody effective against Omicron, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, is in limited supply. The federal government has ordered only about 450,000 treatment courses, The Times reported. The United States did not immediately order this treatment when it was approved last May, as it already had a large inventory of other antibody treatments.

Meanwhile, Paxlovid is a new, powerful antiviral pill from Pfizer that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration two weeks ago. But stocks of this drug are also scarce. Supplies of Paxlovid won’t be plentiful through April, though the Biden administration doubled its order this week. Large quantities of the drug are only now becoming available because the pills take eight months to manufacture, The Times reported.

The New York Times article

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