Covid Treatments Including Paxlovid Are Rationed as Cases Spike

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Drug makers say they are working as fast as possible to produce more treatments.

The federal government did not immediately order supplies of the GlaxoSmithKline antibody when the F.D.A. authorized the treatment’s use last May. At the time, the country had an ample supply of other antibody treatments.

In the fall, the Biden administration ordered about 450,000 doses — the maximum amount that Glaxo could provide since the British company had already committed to fulfill orders from other buyers. (The U.S. government has said it plans to buy a further 600,000 treatment courses.)

Pfizer, meanwhile, developed Paxlovid in less than two years. But it takes up to eight months to produce the pills. Though Pfizer started manufacturing them before it began a major clinical trial of the drug last summer, large quantities are only now starting to become available.

An increasing number of hospitals are imposing restrictions on treatments.

In western Indiana, officials at Sullivan County Community Hospital determined last month that they had to restrict eligibility for antibody infusions, after weeks of receiving far fewer doses than they had ordered. They opted to almost entirely exclude vaccinated people.

“It does make it difficult to have some of those restrictions in place, when maybe it’s your family member that doesn’t meet the requirement, or it’s your neighbor, or your child’s teacher at school,” said Lori Resler, the hospital’s chief nursing officer.

In Texas, doctors and their staff have been calling a long list of pharmacies to see who has Paxlovid in stock before prescribing the treatment, said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Texas health system. The idea is to avoid sending patients on a wild-goose chase, since many pharmacies received only 20 Paxlovid treatment courses.

On Monday, Brooks Rizzo, a family nurse practitioner and director of the Sunflower Rural Health Clinic in Ruleville, Miss., arrived to find a line of patients waiting in the icy cold as they sought Covid tests and treatments.

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