People of color, especially blacks and Hispanics, were less likely to receive Paxlovid and other Covid-19 treatments, according to a study released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Throughout the pandemic, blacks and Hispanics have been twice as likely as whites to be hospitalized or die from Covid-19.
The new study showed that Black Covid-19 patients were 36% less likely than white patients to be treated with Paxlovid and Hispanic patients were 30% less likely to receive the antiviral pill.
Nearly one in three white patients was prescribed Paxlovid, compared with one in five black and Hispanic patients and one in four Asian and American Indian patients.
Racial and ethnic differences persisted in the immunocompromised patient group and across all age groups. The biggest difference was among white patients aged 65 to 79, where white patients were 44% more likely to receive a Paxlovid prescription.
There were also differences in other treatments, including molnupiravir, remdesivir and bebtelovimab, but the treatment was much less prescribed overall.
The reasons for the disparities were not directly assessed in this study, but the researchers suggest several factors, including differences in access to treatment facilities.
Paxlovid reduces the risk of hospitalization or death, but works best when used within a few days of the onset of symptoms. It requires a prescription, making it harder for some people to get to a health care provider in time. Researchers also note the potential effects of racism or implicit bias among providers and patients’ mistrust of the medical system based on prior negative experiences.
In May, the Biden administration “called on all sites providing oral antivirals to collect robust demographic data on people receiving prescriptions for the COVID-19 therapeutic.” But this is the first comprehensive look at treatment patterns by race and ethnicity.
Collecting demographic data in health care is always useful with the broader goal of making the system fairer, experts say.
“The only way to make improvements and monitor the progress of the interventions we do would be to measure,” said Steve Grapentine, a pediatric infectious disease pharmacist at the University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the National Institute. Health’s Covid-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel, told CNN in June.
Racial and ethnic disparities in Covid-19 vaccination rates have improved, but less than half (44%) of the black population have completed the initial series — below the national average of 68% and less than any other racial and ethnic group, CDC data show.
For this study, CDC researchers analyzed the health records of hundreds of thousands of patients seeking treatment for Covid-19 between January and July 2022. The health care systems where the health records were created are a small portion of the US population and may be. do not represent the nation. They did not include data from trial treatment sites, an initiative the federal government launched in May to help achieve equitable access to Covid-19 treatments.
Another CDC report found that disparities in pharmacy dispensing of oral antiviral medications between ZIP codes with high and low social vulnerability began months after this study was completed.
But things may change again in the coming months. A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that without additional funding or protection, the commercialization of Covid-19 prevention and countermeasures would create barriers to access to vaccines, tests and therapeutics, especially for the uninsured and underinsured.
Two key planned changes will affect the market: the end of the Public Health Emergency Declaration and the depletion of federally purchased supplies. Each change creates its own challenges and taken together can “increase access challenges,” according to the KFF analysis.
It hasn’t happened yet – the Public Health Emergency Declaration was renewed earlier this month for another 90 days. But Congress has yet to respond to the Biden administration’s request for billions in additional funding to ensure a stable and affordable supply of countermeasures.
According to the KFF analysis, once commercialized, uninsured adults would lose access to free vaccines. But the treatments and tests would have the most “acute” challenges, cost-sharing how much of the cost would be covered by insurance.