Statement attributable to:
Gerald E. Harmon, M.D.
President, American Medical Association

“While the administration laid out promising plans earlier this week to combat COVID-19 and put measures in place to prevent future pandemics, the pharmacy-based clinic component of the test-to-treat plan flaunts patient safety and risks significant negative health outcomes. This approach, though well intentioned in that it attempted to increase access to care for patients without a primary care physician, oversimplifies challenging prescribing decisions by omitting knowledge of a patient’s medical history, the complexity of drug interactions, and managing possible negative reactions.

“For starters, Paxlovid is 88 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death. But it also has six pages of drug interactions, including interactions that may require a patient to hold, change, or reduce doses of other medications. Molnupiravir, the other oral antiviral medication, is not authorized for people under 18 because it can affect bone and cartilage growth, and it should not be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

“The AMA is pleased the administration is ramping up supply of antivirals so in the near future they will be broadly available. But, in the meantime, establishing pharmacy-based clinics as one stop shopping for COVID-19 testing and treatments is extremely risky. Pharmacy-based clinics typically treat simple illnesses such as strep throat. Yet, COVID-19 is a complex disease and there are many issues to consider when prescribing COVID-19 antiviral medications. Leaving prescribing decisions this complex in the hands of people without knowledge of a patient’s medical history is dangerous in practice and precedent. We urge patients who test positive for COVID-19 to contact their physician to discuss treatment options. COVID-19 is not strep throat—it is a complicated disease that has killed nearly 1 million people in the United States.

“The COVID-19 vaccines work. These antivirals can work when taken properly and timely. After two years of this pandemic, we have the tools at hand to prevent severe outcomes from and treat COVID-19. But we must marshal our resources smartly and effectively, which means under the guidance and supervision of physicians with expertise to deal with complex medications.”

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.