NH to offer Paxlovid via telehealth

Nov. 2—CONCORD — Within minutes of a telephone consult, many at risk for serious complications from COVID-19 will be able to get anti-viral medications under a new $3.4 million federal contract.

State officials say this could permit as many as 24,000 New Hampshire residents over the next four months to more quickly get Paxlovid, the Pfizer-manufactured combination of two antivirals shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

The timing is critical for this oral medicine because it is most effective if taken within 72 hours of having symptoms, said Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.

"We have a lot of supply of Paxlovid but very little uptake for it, and that could be because it requires a prescription and some weren't able to be seen and diagnosed within 72 hours," Shibinette told the Executive Council.

Federal COVID-19 grant money is paying 100% of the cost for the sole-source contract with On-Site Medical Services LLC of Claremont.

The state didn't put the contract out for bids because On-Site was already the vendor fielding calls about COVID-19 testing and vaccination questions and dispatching teams to deliver vaccines at mobile clinics or directly to those who are homebound.

This contract will permit eligible residents to get Paxlovid via overnight mail or, if they are homebound, it could be brought directly to them.

"It's very good at reducing infection, but many physicians were not comfortable prescribing it because they couldn't make it work within their schedule," Shibinette said.

The council unanimously approved the contract.

Gov. Chris Sununu and state health officials have said they expect COVID-19 infections to rise during the winter months as people spend more time indoors, giving the virus a better chance to spread.

Paxlovid also has been found to be effective in treating patients with COVID-19 cases that involve the omicron variants.

Under the contract, medical officials conducting these calls will determine whether the patient qualifies to receive it.

Currently, Paxlovid is available only to those more than 12 years old who weigh at least 88 pounds, already have tested positive for COVID-19 and are at higher risk of getting severely sick from the virus.

This includes anyone over 65 years old and anyone with high-risk conditions such as cancer, diabetes and obesity.

As President Joe Biden learned when he took Paxlovid last summer, some patients who get the drug experience a "rebound" case of COVID-19.

Experts say the rebound case is typically less severe than the original virus.

Paxlovid is not recommended for those on dialysis or suffering from severe liver disease because it is cleared by the kidneys, officials said.