CDC finds antiviral drugs for COVID-19 are inequitably prescribed
A new CDC study found that in recent months, consumers living in the most economically and socially disadvantaged communities were only one-half as likely as those in affluent areas to receive a prescription for oral antiviral medications against COVID-19.
The study, published June 21 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, analyzed more than 1 million prescriptions dispensed for nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid—Pfizer) and molnupiravir (Lagevrio—Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics) between December 23, 2021, and May 21, 2022.
Researchers used ZIP codes to classify geographic areas as having low, medium, or high social vulnerability. They found that in areas of high social vulnerability, prescriptions were written at one-half the rate as in ZIP codes classified as medium or low-social vulnerability.
The differences emerged even though roughly one-half of the sites capable of dispensing the drugs were located in the disadvantaged areas. The researchers noted that patients who sought to obtain the antivirals first needed to test positive for SARS-CoV-2 followed by a visit to a health care provider. Thus, they suggested that a clinical assessment and medication be made available during a single visit.
Cost also may be a hurdle because of the March 22 termination of a federal program that reimbursed uninsured individuals for the costs of testing, seeing a health care provider, and obtaining medication.