CVS has been many people’s go-to pharmacy for decades, but over the past few years, more and more of us have turned to this healthcare company amid the COVID pandemic. Since 2020, CVS has administered over 59 million COVID vaccinations and has distributed more than 54 million COVID tests to people across the country. But even as the COVID situation has improved, the company is not letting up on the fight. Now, CVS is finally letting patients do something important at 9,000 pharmacy locations throughout the U.S. Read on to find out about the major change at your local CVS.
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Many of us have put the pandemic in the rearview mirror, but we may have jumped the gun. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average number of new COVID cases has increased by nearly 5 percent in the last week. “COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the United States have been decreasing for the past few months, but that decline has slowed in recent weeks,” the agency explained.
At the same time, two new Omicron subvariants—BQ.1 and BQ.1.1—have just become dominant in the U.S., causing concern for a potential winter surge. “It’s a little bit eerily familiar,” Jeremy Luban of the University of Massachusetts told NPR. “This time of year last year we were optimistic. We were coming out of the Delta wave, and it was steadily decreasing, and we went into Thanksgiving to wake up to Omicron. So there is this sort of déjà vu feeling from last year.”
But as we head back into a potentially concerning COVID landscape, CVS is making new strides to help us fight back.
On Nov, 15, CVS issued a news release announcing that it will start allowing its pharmacists to prescribe COVID antiviral treatments. According to the announcement, CVS pharmacists will be able to “clinically assess COVID-19 positive patients and, if eligible, prescribe Paxlovid” with this new service.
“Enabling pharmacists to evaluate patients and prescribe Paxlovid when clinically appropriate increases patient access and reduces barriers to care and treatment for those who need it,” Prem Shah, PharmD, the executive vice president of CVS Health and president of CVS Pharmacy, said in a statement. “Paxlovid has proven to be an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 by helping to reduce the severity of symptoms in patients at high risk for severe cases of the illness.”
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CVS Pharmacy is the “first to offer [this] service nationwide,” but there are still some exceptions to those able to access it. According to the news release, pharmacists at more than 9,000 pharmacy locations will be able to prescribe Paxlovid. CVS is currently offering the service in 49 states, as well as in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
At the same time, you must meet specific requirements in order to be prescribed the oral antiviral medication. “For a pharmacist to prescribe Paxlovid to clinically eligible patients, the patient must have had certain bloodwork performed in the past 12 months and must provide supporting documentation or electronic records,” CVS explained. “Pharmacists are required to review a patient’s kidney and liver blood test values before prescribing Paxlovid.”
If you have tested positive for COVID and are symptomatic, you can contact a CVS pharmacist through the company’s website or app in order to seek treatment. According to the news release, a local pharmacist will then conduct an over-the-phone assessment with you.
“One of the important benefits of this service is the convenience it affords our patients,” Shah said. “We are already seeing that some patients can log into the digital scheduler, schedule an appointment, be evaluated by a pharmacist, and receive their medication in just a few hours, which is critical for this medication to be effective.”
You might not get Paxlovid from CVS even with this new service, however. “Not all pharmacist assessments will result in a prescription,” the company noted.
And if you do seek help from the pharmacy, be prepared to pay: “Patients who opt to seek clinical assessment and treatment for COVID-19 from a CVS pharmacist are responsible for an upfront payment, which varies by insurance. Due to federal regulations, patient care services provided by pharmacists are not covered by Medicare or certain state Medicaid plans, and CVS Pharmacy is unable to bill for these services.”