Oral Covid-19 drug Paxlovid now available at three polyclinics, 20 PHPCs

Pfizer's Paxlovid drug is the first Covid-19 pill to be approved by the Health Sciences Authority here PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The oral Covid-19 drug Paxlovid is currently available at three polyclinics and 20 Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs), as part of Singapore's efforts to treat the disease in community settings and to prevent hospitalisations.

Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said on Thursday (March 24) at a press conference held by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 that the experiences of these clinics will be reviewed before the use of the drug is progressively scaled up and extended beyond this initial group of clinics.

He added that doctors have just started prescribing the drug and only a small number of patients have benefited from it so far.

Associate Professor Mak said: "The drug has not significantly made an impact yet on the overall number of patients being admitted to hospital for severe infection, but we will continue to watch this and see whether we can discern any future change in trends as a result of the use of antiviral therapies."

He added that other treatments are currently being used in community treatment facilities as well as in local hospitals, but these are less practical in the community setting as they have to be administered via intravenous drips.

"We will continue to review and see whether we will need to tweak our protocols involving those medications as well," said Prof Mak.

He was responding to a question on how effective Paxlovid has been in preventing hospitalisations since it was rolled out in the community setting.

Pfizer's Paxlovid drug is the first Covid-19 pill to be approved by the Health Sciences Authority here.

Clinical data has shown that it is able to reduce Covid-19-related hospitalisation or death by 88.9 per cent when given within three days from the onset of symptoms.

The efficacy rate was 87.8 per cent when given within five days of symptoms appearing.

Other drugs being used to treat Covid-19 include monoclonal antibodies - which are laboratory-made proteins that act like antibodies in helping the body to fight off infection.

This includes the drug sotrovimab, which can be used to treat patients who do not require oxygen supplementation and have mild to moderate Covid-19 disease and are at risk of progressing to more serious illness.

Drugs to treat patients with severe Covid-19 include monoclonal antibody tocilizumab. It is also given via intravenous drip.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) had previously told The Straits Times that patients at polyclinics and PHPCs who are at risk of severe Covid-19 and who are within five days of the onset of illness will be eligible for Paxlovid.

Eligible patients at both public and private hospitals who are at highest risk of severe illness can also receive the drug.

The drug has to be taken twice daily for five days, and should be given as soon as possible within five days of the onset of symptoms.

MOH had said that for a limited time period, it will fully cover the costs of Paxlovid for use in the eligible primary care settings.

The drug cost the United States government about US$530 (S$720) for a five-day course.

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