Thousands of courses of oral COVID-19 treatments sit unused at Mississippi health providers, while the state continues to have a shortage of effective monoclonal antibody treatments. Mississippi State Department of Health officials urge patients to consider these oral medications for preventing severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. Photo by Michał Parzuchowski via Unsplash
The Mississippi State Department of Health warned that the state’s allocation of COVID-19 antiviral pills are being under-utilized, while previously relied-upon monoclonal antibody treatments are in short supply. Leadership from the Mississippi State Department of Health urged patients with COVID-19 to ask their health providers about the oral medications.
“These are an effective and efficient tool for preventing serious COVID-19 and hospitalizations,” MSDH Director of Communications Liz Charlotte said during a Feb. 11 press briefing. “They are severely underused in the state of Mississippi.”
State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs noted that the available antiviral pills available to patients have different use cases that patients and doctors must consider.
Dobbs says Pfizer’s Paxlovid is effective but must be taken within five days of symptom onset, and patients must be aware of any interactions with their current medications. “Basically if people are on other medications, you have to be careful that it doesn't interact with your medication and require significant consultation with a physician or your practitioner,” Dobbs said. “But it is a very good and effective medication.”
Merck’s Molnupiravir is another option that has fewer possible drug interactions, though its antiviral efficacy is less than that of Paxlovid. “They both have a niche and an opportunity to be used to treat people who have COVID,” Dobbs said.
The most efficacious monoclonal antibody treatment against the omicron variant, Sotrovimab, is in short supply compared to oral medications.
“The omicron variant is not susceptible to the type of monoclonal antibodies we used during the delta surge, but we do have one called Sotrovimab that is useful, but we don't have much of it,” Dobbs said. “We are only allocated about 500 doses a week.”
Those MAB supplies are running short at just 347 doses, while oral treatment supplies number over 2,000 courses of Paxlovid and 10,000 courses of Molnupiravir.
Dobbs also noted an underutilized medication for those with compromised immune systems, called Evusheld.
“It's basically a preventive monoclonal antibody for people who are at very high risk because of weakened immune systems,” Dobbs said. “It gives you basically six months of immune protection from antibodies through this infusion. It's primarily for people not likely to respond to a vaccine due to immune suppression and good examples of this are organ transplantation, patients on chemotherapy, or patients on powerful immune suppression drugs.”
Health providers have only dispensed 135 doses out of the state’s supply of 4,000.
Information on where to obtain oral antiviral medications is available here, while a complete list of oral antiviral providers is available here.
COVID-19 in Slow Decline
After a record breaking number of new COVID-19 cases after the beginning of the new year, MSDH now reports declining numbers of both new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 4,719 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend for a seven day average of 1,854—a significant decrease from previous weeks.
Hospitalization reports continue this downward trend, with MSDH reporting a steady decline from mid-January high of 1708 hospitalizations down to 787 patients as of Feb. 13.
Even with the decline however, MSDH leadership cautioned that this decline does not mean the danger from COVID-19 is over. MSDH reported 367 additional deaths to the virus in the past seven days, with Dobbs noting that fatalities will continue to rise.
“Although we're seeing a decline in the number of COVID cases and we're seeing a decline in the number of hospitalizations, we're still recording thousands of cases every day, every week, and we'll continue to see more illness and unfortunately deaths,” Dobbs said.
“We are not through the COVID pandemic,” Dobbs cautioned. “We have a way to go. We're certainly in a lot better shape than we were some weeks ago, but we have unused tools in our toolbox and we want to make sure that everyone is aware that they are available and can help save Mississippi lives.”
Email Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at [email protected].