Drugs show it’s time to pivot in our approach to COVID-19


We can update our response to the pandemic and start treating COVID-19 infections with new drugs.

By Jeffrey D. Klausner, Special at CalMatters

Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner is Clinical Professor of Medicine, Population, and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.

Americans love a medicalized approach to treating disease. So we have to accept the fact that many Americans would rather take a pill than exercise or diet to prevent disease.

Likewise, there has been a huge setback against non-pharmaceutical interventions like masking, physical distancing or avoiding indoor gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, we can update our response to the pandemic and go the typical American route of treating the disease with drugs.

To make these treatments readily available, public health authorities could create standing protocols and county or state-wide medical orders, thereby avoiding the need for an expensive or difficult-to-obtain medical check-up that would delay treatment. beginning of treatment. Drugstore chains could also offer direct medical treatment based on certain criteria.

In addition, large commercial clinical trial laboratories that detect new cases could join the response. Laboratories could prioritize cases by age or other risk factors for immediate direct laboratory-to-patient notification. Laboratory staff could help link to treatment sites with an email message or phone call.

Many labs might say that such notification and facilitation of treatment is outside their scope, however, in a public health emergency, we must break down existing silos to optimize our response to the epidemic. Our inability to work through systems has been a key factor in our inability to control the pandemic.

When I was responsible for public health in San Francisco, we had permanent protocols for testing and treatment that expedited the notification and treatment of serious conditions. One example was therapy in the field where, under my doctor’s orders, public health staff could provide drugs to new cases of curable infections. Another was a program where people aged 18 or older could download a filled and signed emergency contraception prescription.

Given the still high death rates from COVID-19 – which is now a highly preventable outcome – we must move our public health approach away from controversial and poorly respected mandates of masking and physical distancing orders towards pharmaceutical interventions including l effectiveness has been proven.

We have had great success with immunization – creating the largest immunization program of modern times reaching over two-thirds of the American population. We have created new evidence-based policies to further increase immunization in different settings, but we’ve probably hit a plateau.

New innovative approaches are needed. With the early approval of additional new antiviral drugs, now is the time to change direction. To make this change, health officials and political leaders will need to update their response by adopting the new treatments for this pharmaceutical phase of the fight against COVID-19.

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