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Supply Of Pfizer, Merck COVID-19 Antiviral Pills Remains Very Limited In Our Area And Beyond

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Antiviral pills that can significantly reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations and even deaths - but the supply of the Pfizer and Merck COVID-19 pills across the country - and here in our area - is still very limited.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Friday, getting your hands on a prescription is only half the battle.

Your doctor can write a prescription, but then you need to find a local pharmacy that has the drugs in stock — and all during a very short period of time after you start experiencing symptoms.

"It's a very narrow window," said Dr. Michael Angarone, associate professor of medicine in infectious diseases at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Angarone says that window for taking the oral antiviral COVID drugs is ideally within three days of the onset of symptoms. You can push it to give days.

But even with a prescription in hand, Angarone said, "One of the issues that we've been finding is availability of these medications.

Last week, more than 3,000 units of the Pfizer Paxlovid pill and 12,000 units of the Merck molunpiravir drug were shipped to Illinois.

"We purchased 20 million of these new Pfizer pills - more than any other country in the world," President Joe Biden said last week.

But this week, there were zero shipments to Illinois, according to federal records.
The Illinois Department of Public Health warns the allocations are "extremely limited," and that's why they encourage providers and patients to consider all other options for treatment.
This means right now, it is possible to be too healthy to get a prescription.

"Individuals who are severely immunocompromised - they're getting chemotherapy, they've had transplants, they're severely immune suppressed for other reasons" are the people who would get priority, Angarone said.

Dr. Angarone said they're also focusing on the elderly, pregnant women, and patients with heart disease, chronic lung disease, or immune suppression for any other reason.

IDPH does keep a database online with about 113 current entries for pharmacies or other health centers that have been supplied with shipments of the Pfizer of Merck Pill — but you should check before calling because their supplies are constantly fluctuating.

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