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FDA policy eases access to covid pill as infections climb


WASHINGTON — Pharmacists may prescribe the leading covid-19 pill directly to patients under a new U.S. policy announced Wednesday that’s intended to expand use of Pfizer’s drug Paxlovid.

The Food and Drug Administration said pharmacists may begin screening patients to see if they are eligible for Paxlovid and then prescribe the medication, which has been shown to curb the worst effects of the virus. Previously only physicians could prescribe the antiviral drug.


Meanwhile, an experimental drug initially developed to fight cancer cut the risk of death for people hospitalized with covid by half, according to a study published Wednesday.

The drug, sabizabulin, seemed to be more effective than others that have been authorized for severely ill covid patients.

Veru, the company in Miami that developed the drug, has applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization. That would add a new weapon to the modest arsenal available to hospitalized patients, experts said.


In early 2020, researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center found that sabizabulin tamped down these alarm signals in mouse cells. A few months later, Veru began testing the drug, which is taken as a pill, in people. In May 2021, it advanced to a late-stage trial.

The company sought volunteers who were already hospitalized for covid. To be eligible for the trial, the patients had to be receiving oxygen or relying on a ventilator. They also had to be at high risk of dying of covid, with risk factors such as hypertension, advanced age or obesity.

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