It’s been three months since Health Canada approved the COVID19 antiviral created by Pfizer in Canada. But my own education on this game-changer of a treatment came this last weekend.
Paxlovid can reduce the risk of COVID-associated hospitalization and death by nearly 90%, if taken within the first 5 days of symptom onset. Extreme demand across the globe sees access to this five day course of 6 pills daily only available to extraordinarily vulnerable COVID cases.
The hope is that Paxlovid will someday be easily available at your pharmacy and the side effects or drug interactions minor. But right now, the crash course in this new drug is real.
When a clinically vulnerable loved one qualified, I was on retrieval duty. I thought I knew Paxlovid. I did not.
It started with the prescription. It was massive; more paperwork than prescription. I called the nearest pharmacy to ensure they had any, and was told there was one last course available. The extremely busy pharmacist assistant explained they could not hold the medication without the paperwork in hand, understandably. While I did not have the actual paper, I did have a screenshot and offered to send it over.
“Sorry, FAX only.” 1999 called; they want their fax machine back.
Off I went to connect with the COVID positive patient, tightly masked with my KN95, and once I had papers in hand, made off like a superhero to the pharmacy.
The superhero was the team behind the counter.
Pharmacist appreciation is real for me, but over the next 16 hours, it went to a new level.
With a solid two years of armchair epidemiology under my belt, I leaned into still more learning.
This treatment is anything but “just a bunch of pills.” Paxlovid comes to a pharmacy near you along with a binder full of possible drug interactions and side effects to look out for.
The two pharmacists in my story were clear teammates, who put the wellbeing of my loved one atop their priority list. One was working the evening where I secured the course of pills. He’d clearly been working at top speed, up to his eyeballs in FAXED prescription requests, and a never-ending lineup looking for rapid tests (they were out), as well as booster shot queue.
Pharmacist A said, “I’m going to need an hour and a half, at least, to go through the patient’s file completely and double check all possible interactions — but here are a few things that must stop immediately for the course to begin in the morning.” GULP.
It really got really real, you know?
Seeing the faxes continuing to pile up, I opted to give him ‘til the next morning to get me sorted.
Armed with a head full of do’s and don’ts from my initial crash course in Paxlovid 101 I headed home. As soon as the doors opened the next morning, I was greeted by Pharmacist B (the one with the name on the wall) who recognized me as “Paxlovid Lady” immediately.
Back to the encyclopedia of interactions and side effects. The due diligence was/is absolutely fantastic. He walked me through everything they learned the night prior. He saw that his coworker had flagged something that he didn’t see on the interactions list, and checked again…and again. He determined that “as the pharmacist signing off on this, we will go with what I’ve found.”
The extra mile. The extra care. The exhausted and stretched frontlines showing their dedication.
As impressive as all this was, my takeaway from this has nothing to do with COVID, or Paxlovid:
First, hug your pharmacist.
Second, everyone should carry an updated list of all medications and natural remedies we take regularly.
Sometimes one might miss just how much is on the shoulders of our pharmacists. They are the firewall, the last bastion of medication explanation and awareness.
Let’s arm them with as much information as possible, be patient when they’re swamped — and demand they get upgraded from FAX machines.