COVID-19: Paxlovid pill available at Peterborough Regional Health Centre for eligible patients

This image provided by Pfizer shows its COVID-19 pills, Paxlovid. The COVID-19 treatment has been approved for use in Canada and is now available at Peterborough Regional Health Centre for certain groups. Pfizer photo

Peterborough Regional Health Centre is now offering Pfizer’s anti-viral COVID-19 pill Paxlovid to eligible patients as part of a partnership with Lakeridge Health, officials announced Tuesday.

Dr. Lynn Mikula, the hospital’s executive vice-president, chief of staff and chief medical executive, said a new therapeutic treatment clinic established within the hospital’s COVID-19 assessment centre will provide eligible patients with access to a virtual medical assessment with a physician at Lakeridge Health based in Oshawa.

The clinic — by appointment only — is available for adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at the highest risk of progressing to serious illness.

Read more: Guidelines released for who can receive Paxlovid treatment for COVID-19 in Ontario

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If Paxlovid is prescribed by the Lakeridge physician, the drug will be directly made available through PRHC’s assessment centre. The hospital says the federal government is currently shouldering the cost of the treatment which includes six pills a day for five days

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Mikula says time is “of the essence” for the drug as it works best when taken early — the drug can only be prescribed within the first five days after symptoms of COVID-19 begin and only after a positive test result has been received.

“Any new arrow in our treatment quiver is great,” said Mikula. “Paxlovid is exciting because what it allows us to do is for a patient — who is at risk of progressing to serious illness — is if they receive it within that five days — that narrow window — we know there’s a chance of stopping that progression to serious illness.

“So it keeps people out of hospital, it keeps them from becoming seriously ill or life-threateningly ill, particularly the most vulnerable individuals who have other health conditions that put them at grave risk for COVID-19.”

Lakeridge Health is one of 15 centres in Ontario administering the drug, which received Health Canada approval in January 2022. and Ontario receive its first shipment in late January. Shipments of the drug to PRHC will be “ongoing” as part of the partnership between the hospitals, Mikula said.

Click to play video: 'Oral COVID-19 medicine Paxlovid will be for certain groups in initial rollout'
Oral COVID-19 medicine Paxlovid will be for certain groups in initial rollout

“They are working with us to make sure that we have access for the patients in our region,” said Mikula. “Right now, the supply is available to meet the demand. The demand is fairly low. We expect both of those things will change — we expect the supply will increase, and the demand will increase.

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“For the moment we have what we need to meet the demands of the community,” she added. “But week by week this will continue to shift. We think we will be able to continue to meet demand.”

'Serious' situation

Mikula noted while the number of hospitalized patients across Ontario continues to gradually decline, the situation at PRHC remains “serious” due to ongoing staff shortages and challenges related to the Omicron wave.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, the hospital had 20 patients admitted with COVID-19, with six receiving treatment in an intensive care unit. There is still one ongoing COVID-19 outbreak on a hospital unit.

She noted approximately 100 staff and physicians are off from work due to either COVID-19 or being identified as a close contact of an individual with COVID-19.

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A month ago, the hospital was in the midst of three outbreaks with up to 200 staff off for COVID-19-related reasons.

As a result, the hospital continues to limit surgical and procedural activity to emergency and urgent cases.

“As we continue to keep a close eye on the situation at PRHC and across the health-care system across Ontario, we will carefully assess our ability to gradually resume non-urgent procedures and surgeries in alignment with provincial direction,” Mikula said.

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