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The failed start of Pfizer’s anti-Covid pill

A pill against Covid-19, finally! Appearing at the end of December 2021, it offered a double promise: that of saving lives and that of reducing the hospital load linked to infections by SARS-CoV-2. That pill is Paxlovid. Developed by the Pfizer laboratory, it has been available since February 3 in France. From December 22, on the basis of the results of the first clinical trials, the French State ordered 500,000 doses from the firm. Three months later, the start has been laborious to say the least: as of March 27, only 4,416 doses of this treatment have been prescribed, in France, to patients positive for the virus responsible for Covid-19, announces the National Agency. drug safety.

Ironically, the Paxlovid arrived when the Omicron wave was in full ebb (the peak of the fifth wave was reached around January 24). “A lot of professionals said to themselves: ‘this medicine is coming too late’.testifies Jacques Battistoni. But that is no longer the case today.” infections are on the rise again.

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Aware of the use of this treatment much weaker than expected, the High Authority for Health (HAS) was to initiate, Wednesday, April 6, a process to modify the status of Paxlovid. This drug should then switch to a conventional prescription regimen, “end of April or beginning of May”, specifies Philippe Besset, president of the Federation of Pharmaceutical Unions of France.

A response to one of the main obstacles to its use. General practitioners, who are responsible for offering it to patients, deplore an overly complex prescription method. Because this drug is new, it has been placed on a “early access authorization”.

Rather cumbersome procedure

In Europe, in fact, Paxlovid obtained, on January 27, a “conditional marketing authorization”. This procedure is reserved for drugs that meet an unmet medical need, even though data on their long-term efficacy and safety are not yet known. “This is the first time in France that a drug prescribed by general practitioners has benefited from such an early access authorization”, points out Philippe Besset.

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This status allows close monitoring of its effects in patients. But it imposes a rather cumbersome procedure on prescribers. “We have to go to an online platform of the Pfizer laboratory, identify ourselves and fill out a questionnaire on the characteristics [symptômes, âge, autres maladies…] patients, explains Jacques Battistoni, president of the union of general practitioners MG France. A very unusual procedure for us. » It’s necessary “twenty to thirty minutes to the general practitioner to complete this form online”, adds Olivier Saint-Lary, president of the National College of General Teachers. The simplification of the procedure proposed by the HAS should eliminate this constraint, thus encouraging prescriptions.

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