Updated: US sees spike in Paxlovid usage as Merck's molnupiravir and AstraZeneca's Evusheld are slower off the shelf
New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.
In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.
A Pfizer spokesperson told Endpoints News the company does “not have any concerns nor foresee any supply issues in our ability to support if [usage] rates increase.”
Cumulatively, as of May 24, almost 3.8 million doses of Paxlovid have been made available to states so far by the federal government, and about 2.4 million of those have been ordered by states, with more than 831,000 courses administered.
Signs for such a spike in usage were evident earlier this month, as in a call with reporters senior HHS officials credited the surge in the use of Paxlovid to their outreach, and through the Biden administration’s Test to Treat initiative, which allows for use of Paxlovid with a positive test at participating pharmacies.
“We have seen more than a 315% increase in Paxlovid use over the past four weeks. In the first week of May, nearly 115,000 courses were dispensed,” an official said at the time.
Meanwhile, outside of Paxlovid, few other treatment options are really in wide use.
Merck’s molnupiravir, known commercially as Lagevrio, has struggled to make its way out of the inventory closet, according to the latest numbers posted by HHS.
Only about 20,000 courses of the Merck pill were used in the past week, and only about 13% of the total US inventory of molnupiravir has been used to date. That compares with about 35% of overall usage of Paxlovid courses ordered by states so far, and the bulk of those orders have come within the last several months.
But for AstraZeneca’s preexposure mAb Evusheld, only about 16,000 courses were administered in the past week. About 38% of all Evusheld ordered by states has been administered so far, according to the latest HHS numbers.
For Eli Lilly’s bebtelovimab, which is a monoclonal antibody that’s supposed to be used ahead of molnupiravir if both are on hand, about 100,000 courses in total have been administered of 379,526 courses ordered (542,330 courses available). Bebtelovimab is the follow-on mAb after Lilly’s former combo mAb (850,000+ courses distributed earlier in the pandemic) that lost efficacy against the latest variant.
Meanwhile, HHS has become less and less transparent with its data and information on its distribution of Covid-19 therapeutics.
After the Trump administration, and the beginning of the Biden administration allowed for the public posting of weekly calls between HHS and states on Covid-19 therapeutic distribution, those calls have since been made private and the prior recordings have been deleted from the ASPR website.
In addition, each week’s therapeutic administration numbers have to be tallied independently because HHS now deletes the previous week’s numbers.
Editor’s note: Article updated to add Pfizer comment and note the stats for Lilly’s Covid-19 treatments bebtelovimab too.