Pfizer's Covid pills going to patients on Friday
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters announced Wednesday that the first set of 21,000 courses of Pfizer’s oral treatment for Covid-19, Paxlovid, will arrive on Thursday and start to be prescribed the very next day.
Another 10,000 courses are scheduled to be delivered by the end of this month, the headquarters added.
The oral treatment will be administered to mild to moderate Covid-19 cases — excluding asymptomatic patients — at high risk of developing severe infections. Treatment will start within five days of symptoms starting.
The first pills will go to people over 64 or with weak immune systems who are receiving treatment at home or at residential treatment centers.
The immune-compromised includes people with autoimmune diseases; H.I.V.; those receiving B-cell targeted therapies or who had organ transplants in the past year; people taking immunosuppressive medications such as steroids.
“As the initial shipment volume to Korea is insufficient due to increased demand for treatments globally, we have selected the recipient group preferentially,” Second Vice Health and Welfare Minister Ryu Geun-hyuk said during a press briefing on Wednesday. “We will adjust and expand the group after comprehensively reviewing the supply and the virus trend.”
Patients receiving at-home care will consult with their doctors remotely, and will get the pills through their local government or a pharmacy.
Patients at residential treatment centers will be administered the pills by medical staff. It will check for any abnormal symptoms every day, and request in person consultations if necessary.
The government stressed the need for caution when administering Pfizer’s oral treatment.
“[Paxlovid] cannot be combined with 23 types of drugs, and thus requires medical staff’s supervision when administering,” Ryu said.
Health authorities explained that patients should take all pills prescribed for five days even if their symptoms improve. They also advised patients to fully brief doctors on any diseases they have and the drugs they’re taking.
The officials stressed the ban on resales of the treatment, and said punishments are up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won.
Pfizer’s Covid-19 pill was granted emergency use authorization in the country on Dec. 27.
Korea has bought enough oral treatments to cover 1,004,000 people. By type, Pfizer’s Paxlovid makes up 762,000 of those treatments, while 242,000 are Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD)’s oral treatment Molnupiravir.
Also on Wednesday, Korea authorized the use of Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety announced that it granted authorization on the condition that a report on the final result of clinical trials is submitted.
Novavax’s vaccine became the fifth Covid-19 vaccine to get approval for use in Korea, following AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Janssen and Moderna.
Korean drugmaker SK Bioscience holds the rights to its domestic production and commercialization.
It can be stored in a refrigerator at temperatures between two and eight Celsius for up to five months and does not require a separate thawing procedure, enabling distribution through the existing vaccine supply chain.
Novavax’s vaccine will be administered to adults aged 18 or older in two rounds with a 21-day interval.
The vaccine showed efficacy of 89.7 percent in studies conducted in Britain and 90.4 percent in the United States.
“After receiving national shipping approval, [Novavax’s vaccine] is expected to be available for inoculation in early February at the earliest,” Minister of Food and Drug Safety Kim Gang-lip said in a briefing Wednesday.
The vaccine will be used for first and second jabs, while the government reviews whether it can be used as booster shots.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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