The medication, Paxlovid, could previously only be prescribed by physicians, nurses, or physician assistants.

In an effort to increase access to the medication, the US Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday (July 6) that it has given state-licensed pharmacists permission to recommend Pfizer's COVID-19 tablet to qualified patients.

Since December, Paxlovid, an antiviral medication, has been approved for usage and has been made freely available in the United States. However, less than half of the almost 4 million courses that the government has so far supplied to pharmacists have been used.

However, as infections increase, the use of the tablet, which is approved to treat newly infected, at-risk individuals to prevent severe sickness, has increased recently.

"Since Paxlovid must be taken within five days after symptoms begin, authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid could expand access to timely treatment for some patients," director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Patrizia Cavazzoni, said in a statement.

Paxlovid is designed for COVID-19 carriers who are more susceptible to develop major illnesses. This includes elderly persons and those who have other health conditions like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or obesity that make them more vulnerable. Patients with serious kidney or liver issues shouldn't use it. Three pills taken twice daily for five days is one course of therapy.

The organization advised COVID-19-positive patients to bring their medical records so that the pharmacists could check for renal and liver issues.

However, the need for paperwork may restrict use. In order for pharmacists to check for health issues and medications that could negatively interact with Paxlovid, patients are required to present their most recent health records, including blood tests, and a list of their current medications. Pharmacy professionals can also speak with the patient's doctor as an option.

According to a statement from the American Medical Association (AMA), a doctor should wherever possible, make the choice to prescribe medication.

"It (Paxlovid) is not for everyone and prescribing it requires knowledge of a patient's medical history, as well as clinical monitoring for side effects and follow-up care to determine whether a patient is improving," AMA president Jack Resneck said.

If there is insufficient data to evaluate kidney or liver function or if adjustments are required owing to a probable drug reaction, the FDA advised pharmacists to refer the patients to a healthcare provider with a prescription drug license.

According to the agency, patients with impaired kidney function might only require a lower dose of the medication.

According to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, people in socially and economically underprivileged areas are only approximately half as likely to be prescribed antiviral COVID-19 medications like Paxlovid as people in wealthier zip codes.