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HIV, cancer, transplant patients first priority for B.C.’s 4,000 courses of Pfizer antiviral

Some patients most in need of Paxlovid may be unable to take it due to health or medication issues
This image provided by Pfizer in October 2021 shows the company’s COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. U.S. health regulators on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021 authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus. (Pfizer via AP)

B.C. has received 4,000 treatment course of Pfizer’s newly approved antiviral drug Paxlovid, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday (Feb. 1).

Paxlovid is a combination of the drugs nirmatrelvir and ritonavir and Pfizer’s clinical trials show that it can reduce risk of severe illness by up to 90 per cent if given within the first five days since symptom onset.

Each treatment course consists of 10 pills given twice daily for five days. Henry said that people deemed clinically extremely vulnerable will be prioritized for treatment.

“So those are those people who have immune-compromising conditions because of medications that they’re on, because of having had a transplant or undergoing certain cancer therapies,” Henry said.

“(Our teams) will be starting to offer Paxlovid to people at the highest risk groups and we’ll be reaching out to them through a proactive process of monitoring our lab data.”

One of the drugs that makes up Paxlovid, ritonavir, is already used as an antiviral treatment for HIV patients, making them one of the first groups to be offered the COVID antiviral.

However, Henry cautioned that some people in greatest need of treatment may be unable to use it due to the way it interacts with other medications or conditions.

“This new antiviral combination has some very important what we call contraindications” which would make some individuals unable to take it safely, Henry said, adding that it also has some drug interactions.

“So unfortunately, many of the people who would potentially benefit from this medication take some of those medications that interact with it. We have to be mindful of people’s kidney function, immunosuppressant medications they’re on, anticoagulants… these are some of the various serious interactions.”

READ MORE: Enough Pfizer antiviral to treat 30K people already in Canada; enough for 120K more coming


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