COVID Illinois Update: IL reports 1,640 new cases, 45 deaths

Pharmacists raise concerns about 'test to treat' anti-viral drug program

BySarah Schulte and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Pharmacists raise concerns about 'test to treat' program
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Some Chicago area pharmacists are concerned about how the Biden Administration plans to implement the "test to treat' program.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois public health officials reported 1,640 new COVID cases and 45 related deaths Wednesday.

There have been at least 3,034,701 total COVID cases, including 32,848 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 1.8%.

Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 109,823 new specimens for a total of 54,817,964 since the pandemic began.

As of Monday night, 951 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 165 patients were in the ICU, and 79 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

A total of 21,133,040 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Tuesday, and 63.79% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 12,967.

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Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced a new "test to treat" program for COVID-19 that would provide anti-viral medications as soon as someone tests positive for the virus.

"I think the concept itself is a good idea," said Justin Moore, infectious disease clinical pharmacist at Northwestern Medicine. "You want these drugs to be easily accessible, especially with an emphasis on equity."

But Moore says there are many challenges with the idea, especially with Pfizer's Paxlovid.

"I think the problem lies in the complexity of these medications," Moore said. "Paxlovid, for example, there are a lot of concerns about drug-to-drug interactions with medical medications."

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Moore says while high-risk patients may benefit the most from the drug, they are also patients who take medications that may not interact well with Paxlovid.

"There does have to be some clinical nuancing here to ensure it's the right patient who receives it," Moore said.

The antiviral drugs are to be taken within five days of the onset of COVID symptoms.

"If you treat folks right after your symptoms start, you not only slow the disease, but potentially treat community transmission," said Dr. Max Brito, a UIC infectious disease specialist.

Brito is concerned about how the White House plan will be implemented using pharmacies.